Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the body. Also largest, this tendon is located at the back of your ankle. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Because of its location at the back of your ankle, it is vulnerable to injuries; especially people playing velocity sports are vulnerable to Achilles tendon problems, such as rupture or contracture.
Shortening of Achilles tendon is called Achilles contracture. This condition is one of the causes for foot pain and limitation of ankle movement. In most cases ankle contracture is treated conservatively with casts and exercise.Sometimes surgery may be needed to release the contracture.
Causes Of Contractures Of Achilles Tendon
Some of the common causes of shortening of Achilles tendon are:
- Contracture of Achilles tendon can be congenital. In many cases the baby is born with contracture of this tendon.
- Walking with poor posture is one the reason for contracture of Achilles tendon. It is common problem in women who wear high heel shoes.
- Achilles contracture is also common problem faced by joggers and people playing sports where they have to land on their heels instead of the foot.
- Achilles tendon also contracts in other disorders such as in paralysis of legs and in poliomyelitis.
Symptoms Of Achilles Tendon Contracture
Achilles tendon contracture can occur in any person. It can be present in new born as well as even in old people. The underlying cause may be different. In old people the cause can be paralysis of the muscles and tendons. In new born it can be a congenital defect and in children it can occur due to poliomyelitis.
Patient suffering from this problem has difficulty in placing his heels on the ground. Since the contracture does not allow free movement of the foot and heel he will have difficulty in walking. Because of improper gait, patient may limp and have pain in knee joint.
Ulcers are common as the part constantly rubs in against the surface while walking. Patient also complains of pain in ankles and at the back of foot of the affected leg. Congenital contracture can develop in both legs.
Treatment Options For Achilles Contracture
Depending on the severity of Achilles tendon contracture, the condition can be treated either conservatively or with surgical intervention. One of the ways to correct the defect is to raise the heel portion inside the shoes.
- Stretching exercises are extremely useful to correct contracture.
- Patients suffering from paralysis can use cast and braces to support the ankle and foot.
- Many times physiotherapists and orthopedic doctors stretch and manipulate the tendon to lengthen it.
- In extreme difficult cases, in order to lengthen the tendon, doctors may use surgical procedure. In some cases the patient may need repeated surgery to lengthen the tendon.