December 2002 Bulletin

According to the Greek myth, Achilles was vulnerable only at his heel. It’s a trait that he must have passed down to all other humans when he gave his name to the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body and can withstand forces of 1, 000 pounds or more. But it is also the most frequently ruptured tendon, and both professional and weekend athletes can suffer from Achilles tendinitis, a common overuse injury and inflammation of the tendon.

Any number of events may trigger an attack of Achilles tendinitis, including:

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of Achilles tendinitis fall into a common pattern:

Because several conditions such as a partial tendon tear and heel bursitis have similar symptoms, you need to see your orthopaedic surgeon for a proper diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the degree of injury to the tendon, but usually involves:

Surgery is often an option of last resort. If friction between the tendon and its covering sheath makes the sheath thick and fibrous, surgery to remove the fibrous tissue and repair any tears may be the best treatment option. Recovery is slow, may require a temporary cast and includes a rehabilitation program to avoid weakness.

Prevention

You may not be able to prevent Achilles tendinitis, but here are six steps to reduce your risk of incurring an attack:

Your Orthopaedic Connection—http://orthoinfo.aaos.org—is the patient education Web site of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.


Home Previous Page