Tension Hazards: Tight Achilles Tendon
Imagine a bungee cord that has become stiff and inflexible. If you try to stretch it to use it, the elastic fibers probably won’t cooperate well—if they are too stiff, they may even snap. Your body has its own “elastic bands” that connect muscles to bone: your tendons. Having stiff, inflexible connectors, like a tight Achilles tendon, can make it painful and difficult to use the affected limb.
The Problem with Tension
A tight Achilles tendon increases your risk for a variety of issues. Your Achilles plays a significant role in your mobility by connecting the calf muscle to your heel bone. Your calf then pulls on your foot, allowing you to rise up on your toes and push off the ground to take a step. To do this efficiently, of course, it has to be able to relax and stretch somewhat. If the tissue is too tight, it may not be able to accommodate the range of motion you need. Worse, constant tension strains the connector over time and can lead to ankle pain and injuries.
The tighter your Achilles tendon is, the more likely you are to develop tendonitis. This inflammation and swelling in the connective tissue makes it painful and difficult to use the affected limb, especially for strenuous activities. The longer the irritation and tightness continues, the more likely you will tear or completely rupture the non-flexible band. The pulling on your heel bone from a stiff tendon can create other problems as well. It can aggravate Haglund’s deformity, bone spurs from tendonitis, and even plantar fasciitis. In a child, it could lead to Sever’s disease, or inflammation in the heel’s growth plate.
Relaxing the Tendons
Because a tight Achilles tendon risks so much discomfort and injury, you shouldn’t ignore the issue. This condition is easy to manage if you approach it carefully. If you’re already experiencing ankle pain from the stiffness, you should have your lower limbs checked for damage. Dr. Joel W. Brook and Dr. David R. Northcutt will evaluate your foot function and how stiffness in the connective tissue may be playing a part. Then our staff will work carefully to help you release the tension in the back of your ankle.
Stretching will be the most important part of relaxing your Achilles. Physical therapy exercises can help loosen the tissues that have been pulling on the back of your foot. Movements like the runner’s stretch reach the calf muscle in the lower leg, while others more specifically affect the tendon. You may also need to change your shoes to accommodate the stiffness. Sometimes poorly fitting footwear can strain the foot and encourage the tissue to tighten. Other footwear, like high heels, can actually cause the connector to shorten. Instead, choose shoes that cushion and support both your heel and your arch.
A tight Achilles tendon doesn’t have to guarantee an injury or pain. While it can lead to tendonitis or tears, it can also be managed conservatively to relieve the tension in your heel and ankle and keep your lower limbs functioning well. Don’t wait until you’re injured to seek help. Contact our team of specialists here at Dallas Podiatry Works in Dallas and Plano TX. Use our online request form or call—(972) 566-7474 for the Dallas location, or (972) 943-3323 for the Plano office.