Achilles Tendon – What is it? What does it do?
“Achilles Tendon” crops up very often in athelets vocubalary, courtsey visits to a doctor due to discomfort, inflammation and/or injuries. Many other people have also suffered degrees of pain and injury related to it.
The Achilles Tendon aka Calcaneal Tendon is a tough band of fibrous tissue connecting the calf muscles (gastrocnemius & soleus) to the heel bone (calcaneous). The gastrocnemius and soleus unite to form this band at the low end of the calf. Small sacs of fluid called the bursae, cushion the Achilles Tendon at the heel. It is the largest and strongest tendon of the body, measuring about 15cm in length. It puts a spring in the step allowing us to stand on our toes, while walking, running , jumping or stationary. It does this by pulling on the heels every time the calf muscles flex. There are enough studies to demonstrate that the Achilles Tendon is involved in the peak storage of potential energy and release of elastic energy during propulsive movement. Despite it’s strong status, it is actually quite vulnerable to injury and inflammation due to the facts that it has limited blood supply, no protective covering really and high tensions placed on it.
Some of the common injuries related to this structure are Achilles Tendon tear, rupture, tendonitis, peritendonitis, tendinosis, tendinopathy and bursitis etc – each indicative of degrees and severity of injury. Rehabilitation is usually a slow process and may require staying off strenuous actvity or activity in general.
Exercise modalities should be geared to maintaining it’s integrity by ensuring adequate activation and mobilization of surrounding structures. A compromised Achilles Tendon can be the bane of many sports performers and ignoring the issue can aggravate something simple into far more acute and chronic.