As the largest tendon in the body, the Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, allowing you to run, jump, and walk. Though this tendon can withstand a great deal of stress due to running and jumping, it is also prone to injuries related to overuse and degeneration.
There are several factors that can lead to an Achilles tendon injury. A quick change in exercise intensity, failure to stretch prior to a workout, overuse, and tight muscles and tendons can all contribute to injury.
Characterized by swelling, pain, tenderness, and stiffness at the back of the ankle, an Achilles tendon injury can be as minimal as a strain and as severe as a complete rupture of the tendon. Minor to moderate Achilles tendon injuries can often be treated using nonsurgical methods. Resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the leg, as well as taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and stretching the calf muscles regularly, can help the tendon heal on its own. Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy, supportive shoes, or orthotics.
If you suffer a severe tendon tear or your pain does not improve for more than six months, your doctor may recommend surgical treatment. This may involve a surgical lengthening of the calf muscles to reduce the stress placed on your Achilles tendon. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may require a tendon repair or tendon transfer.
The amount of damage to your tendon will determine whether you would benefit more from a tendon repair or a full tendon transfer, which replaces the entire damaged tendon.