The Achilles tendon, which is sometimes also called as the tendo calcaneous or the calcaneal tendon, is located in the posterior of the leg. It attaches the soleus, gastrocnemius and the plantaris muscles to the cafcaneus or the heel bone.
All About the Achilles Tendon
This tendon, which starts at the middle of the calf muscle, is about 6 inches long and is the strongest and thickest tendon in the human body. The lower part of the tendon stretches out laterally just before its insertion.
The last 1.6 to 2 inches are covered by integument and fascia and the gap between the heel bone and the tendon is filled with adipose tissue and areolas.
Achilles Tendon – Function and Mechanism
Achilles tendon is most useful when there is a need to stretch the lower muscles in the shin and the heel bone. The tendon helps in various activities like stretching, jumping and walking. When the gastrosoleus muscle contracts, the foot plantraflexes, i.e. it gains the ability to move in an upward and downward angle.
In short, the Achilles tendon transfers the power of the lower calf to the foot hence enabling it to move in an upright motion. According to a recent article by the Sports Medicine department of the Massachusetts General Hospital, the contraction of the outer gastrocnemius and the inner soleus muscle enables the heel to rise slowly while transferring the weight from the foot onto the toes thus making climbing and springing possible.
The Achilles tendon is different from other tendons in the body in yet another way. Where almost all the tendons have a sheath or a covering that reduces wear and tear to the tendon by friction, the Achilles tendon has a softer tissue covering it.
As there is limited blood supply to the tendon, it is highly prone to injuries and can take a long time to heal. Its functionality is also severely reduced due to frequent wear and tear and aging.
Achilles Tendon Rupture
Injuries to the Achilles tendon are common among people of all ages. The rupture to the tendon is generally caused by a sudden and immediate plantraflexion of the ankle or if the foot moves in a direction outside its regular motion.
Other reasons or causes of rupture or Achilles tendon tear are excess stress on the tendon brought on in one act or by years of usage, putting too much effort in a single go after a long rest of the tendon and severe sports. Some antibiotics also weaken the tendons in the body, especially the Achilles tendon.
People who are more susceptible to rupture of the Achilles tendon are:-
- Professional Athletes
- People who have had problems with the Achilles tendon or the muscles connecting that tendon before.
- Old people
- Children or adults who play extreme sports where the body takes a toll, ex: football and rugby
- People who have previously injected or are still injecting steroids directly into the Achilles tendon.
The rupture is often associated with intense Achilles tendon pain and swelling. It can happen from a horrific sports injury or by one small misstep when walking. Achilles tendon rupture surgery can be taken up in order to rectify this problem. There are two types of Achilles tendon surgery that you can opt for, depending on your preferences, and you can consult your medical practitioner in order to learn about these types of Achilles tendonitis treatment.