Updated 11/23/2012 05:00 AM
Healthy Living: The Achilles tendon
The Achilles is the tendon behind the ankle bone. Do you know how to tell if it’s a tear or tendinitis? Marcie Fraser has some helpful information.
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The Achilles tendon is the thickest and the longest tendon in the body at about five and a half inches long. It attaches the calf muscle to the bone, and it pushes us forward when we walk or run.
Because the tendon has a poor blood supply, it can tear more easily. Sometimes, the tears are small.
"A partial tear or micro tear, a lot of people don't know or if they do, it's pain, more of the tendinitis, achy, sore," said Dr. Larry Fine, an orthopedic surgeon.
When a tendon ruptures, it is usually sudden and without much notice because the tendon was weakened by previous tears.
"The theory is that there is a very poor blood supply in that area, so it never heals and one day it goes. It's usually a minor thing, the straw that broke the camel's back," said Dr. Fine.
Through surgery, the tendon is sutured back together.
"When we go in surgically, there is nothing left, it's not a nice clean tear. When you tear your Achilles tendon, it is like a hand grenade went off. We suture the tendon it back together. The tissue in not a good quality, it's not often that easy so occasionally we have to use another tendon to bridge the gap," said Dr. Fine.
After surgery, rehab is a must. For patients who have torn one Achilles tendon, be careful because you are predisposed to tear the other one. Prevention is key.
"Increase strength of the calf muscles and the best exercise for that is eccentric strengthening," said Dr. Fine.
And if you think you tore your Achilles because you weren't warmed up, according to Dr. Larry Fine, not so. He said most tears occur after a person is warmed up.