Function of the Achilles tendon | Achilles tendon

Function of the Achilles tendon

If the triceps surae muscle contracts, this leads – via the Achilles tendon – to plantar flexion. This is the movement you perform when you stand on tiptoe. The muscle with its Achilles tendon is also involved in supination (turning the foot inwards, as when you try to see the sole of your foot).

The Achilles tendon reflex

Testing of the Achilles tendon reflex is part of the standard examination of the patient in neurology. Here, the examiner usually stretches the patient’s muscle (and thus also the tendon) slightly by pushing/pulling the forefoot a little upwards and then hitting the tendon with the reflex hammer. If the reflex is intact, the foot moves towards the ground (plantar flexion). The reflex is connected via the tibial nerve and the spinal cord segments S1 and S2.

Naming the Achilles tendon

Achill (Achilleus) was a hero of Greek mythology who was mortal as the son of a divine mother and a human father. His mother Thetis, however, wanted to make him at least invulnerable and for this purpose she bathed him in the river Styx, which separated the underworld from the overworld. But the heel she held on to when she immersed him did not come into contact with the water and thus became his only vulnerable spot, the “Achilles’ heel“. Later it was supposed to be a poisonous arrow that hit him right there and killed him.

Stretching the Achilles tendon

Particularly in the Achilles tendon, tendon shortening often occurs, which can be very painful. The best therapy for acute complaints is stretching exercises, if possible several times a day and for about 30 seconds each time. For example, with a simple lunge forward, when the leg of the affected side is behind, a stretching of the Achilles tendon can be achieved.

To do this, straighten the upper body and bend the front leg, the back leg stands firmly on the floor and the heel is pressed down. In everyday life, steps are suitable for stretching the Achilles tendon by standing on the step with the front foot only and letting the affected heel slowly hang down over the edge. If you experience pain when stretching, you should stop stretching immediately and seek physiotherapeutic advice. But also chronic inflammation of the Achilles tendon, as it often occurs in athletes, can be treated by such stretching exercises and the pain often associated with it decreases.

Tapering the Achilles tendon

Taping is the application of a functional adhesive plaster tape that does not completely immobilize the treated joints or muscles, but only prevents undesired or excessive movement. In this way, tape bandages can support the stability of the muscle and bone apparatus. With regard to the Achilles tendon, taping can help with pain, shortening and overstraining, but plays a particularly important role in the prevention of Achilles tendon complaints.

In order for a tape bandage to actually fulfil its function, it should be applied under professional guidance. Strip-shaped tapes are stuck parallel to the Achilles tendon on the heel bone, the rear calf bone and under the foot to relieve the Achilles tendon and stabilise the ankle. The decision for a tape bandage of the Achilles tendon should also always be made by a doctor or therapist.

A kinesiotape bandage does not provide support for the Achilles tendon, it is not a replacement for a splint or Achilles tendon bandage, it can only relieve discomfort and pain. Acute injuries and swelling or external injuries speak against the use of a tape bandage and should be examined by a doctor or physiotherapist. Taping is also no longer sufficient for Achilles tendon inflammation or partial tears of the Achilles tendon. Only in the final stage of recovery after therapy can a tape be used again as mechanical support for the Achilles tendon to stabilize the ankle.