The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body and can withstand forces of 1,000 pounds or more. But it is also the most frequently ruptured tendon. Achilles tendonitis, a common overuse injury and inflammation of the tendon, often begins with mild pain after exercise or running and then gradually worsens.
Achilles tendon problems are most often caused by overuse or repeated movements. These movements can happen during sports, work, or other activities. For example, if you do a lot of pushing off or stop-and-go motions when you play sports, you can get microtears in the tendon. Microtears can also happen with a change in how long, hard, or often you exercise. Microtears in the tendon may not be able to heal quickly or completely.
Being out of shape or not warming up before exercising may also cause Achilles tendon problems. So can shoes with poor arch supports or rigid heels.
An Achilles rupture is most often caused by a sudden, forceful motion that stresses the calf muscle. This can happen during an intense athletic activity or even during simple running or jumping. Middle-aged adults are especially likely to get this kind of injury.
A rupture most often occurs in sports such as basketball, racquet sports (including tennis), soccer, and softball. A tendon already weakened by over-stretching, inflammation, or small tears is more likely to rupture.
Symptoms of Achilles tendon problems include swelling in the ankle area and mild or severe pain. The pain may come on gradually or may only occur when you walk or run. You may have less strength and range of movement in the ankle.
A rupture of the Achilles tendon may cause a sudden, sharp pain. Most people feel or hear a pop at the same time. Swelling and bruising may occur, and you may not be able to point your foot down or stand on your toes.