The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. It shares its name with the legendary Greek warrior, Achilles (known for his ferocity and strength). This tendon is responsible for downward movement of the feet by connecting to the muscles of the lower leg. By virtue of its sheer size and proximity to the ground, it is a foundation for motion. If you want to get up and go, chances are you are going to utilize this tendon.
Our bodies induce a formidable amount of force through the Achilles each time we stand up, not to mention run, walk or jump. Tiny rips and tears can occur every day and heal themselves at night when we sleep. When the Achilles experiences repeated and harsher stresses, the tears can lead to tendonitis. Because of the relatively small blood supply, healing can take longer. Overuse, imbalance and poorly fitted shoes are huge offenders. Minor rips, tears, and tendonitis can certainly occur from imbalances in the foot or sports activity. However, this tendon is more at risk for injury caused by long-term overuse.
Avid runners and athletes frequently experience inflammation or Achilles tendonitis. An article in the American Academy of Family Physicians says, “Running produces forces up to eight times the body’s weight, placing significant repetitive stress on the tendon for prolonged periods. Tendonitis in athletes is usually caused by training errors such as incorrect running technique or wearing improperly fitting shoes.”
It is important to protect the feet during any activity. An injury to the Achilles tendon will surely inhibit activities as simple as walking. Proper healing is also critical to prevent chronic pain from injury. Tendonitis can be fought with plenty of rest and ice.
Excessive pronation of the feet can have a considerable effect on the Achilles tendon. Pronation creates imbalances that off-center the foot and ankle, which can lead to injury. Injury caused by pronation can affect men and women of all ages. The tendon becomes weakened or stretched beyond its normal limits and can take time to restore back to health. The Achilles tendon bows in on the side of hyperpronation. The calcaneus tilts inward, bringing the talus with it. The stress can extend to the tibia and along the entire kinetic chain.”
Given the location of the Achilles tendon, and the critical role it plays each day, it is important to recover this part of the body effectively. Rest and ice should be incorporated even for the most severe cases. Ice will help reduce inflammation and rest will take stress off of the injured tendon and help restore its natural range of motion.
In addition to rest and ice, proper recovery and prevention can be supported by proper footwear and stretching. Proper stretching is beneficial for restoring the natural range of motion in the feet. A chiropractor’s knowledge of the body’s functionality is an excellent approach for recovery. Footwear that offers a solid medial arch and extra support for the foot and ankle will help prevent injury. It will also support an injured ankle from further injury.
[One easy solution is to get a digital foot scan and analysis. Dr. Cohen of ProActive Chiropractic in downtown San Francisco offers complimentary foot scans to determine if you need special support, from custom orthotics to just a specific shoe recommendation.]
It would be nice to believe that our musculoskeletal systems are as strong as the Greek soldier, Achilles. It is important for patients to have an understanding of how severe it can be to injure this critical part of the body. Our bodies go to war each day and the wear and tear can put even the greatest warriors out of commission.
(Article taken from Foot Levelers)
Mazzone, Michael F., McCue, Timothy. (May 2002). Common Conditions of the Achilles Tendon. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0501/p1805.html
Charrette, Mark. (May 2004). Structural Imbalance and Postural Support.