There are many causes, types of, treatments for, and steps to prevent Achilles tendon injury.
Overuse, misalignment, improper footwear, medication side effects, and/or accidents can all result in Achilles tendon injuries. Genetics can also be a factor. Multiple causes often contribute to the same Achilles tendon injury. For information on each of these Achilles tendon injury causes, see Causes of Achilles Tendon Injury.
The best way to prevent an Achilles tendon injury is to a) stay in overall good shape, and b) warm-up, stretch, and strengthen the Achilles tendons. The best way to prevent an Achilles tendon injury from getting worse is to address the injury immediately: it will get worse if not addressed. For more information on preventing Achilles tendon injuries see: Preventing Achilles Tendon Injury.
Undue strain results in over 230,000 Achilles tendon injuries per year in the U.S. alone. The undue strain could be caused by a variety of factors, including: tightness or weakness of the leg, knee, hip, or back; high or low arches; uneven leg lengths; alternating between high (2”) heels and exercise shoes; and/or sudden (rather than gradual) increases in training, such as running faster, further, or up steeper hills.
The most common Achilles tendon injuries are Achilles tendinosis (also known as Achilles tendinopathy or misspelled Achilles tendonopathy) and Achilles tendon rupture. Achilles tendinosis is a soreness and stiffness that comes on gradually and continues to worsen until treated. It often starts with stiffness and creaking when first getting out of bed in the morning. Lightly pinching the Achilles tendon with the forefinger and thumb will indicate soreness. Achilles tendinosis is a common injury among middle and long distance runners. Achilles tendon rupture is a partial or complete tear of the Achilles tendon. It comes on suddenly, sometimes with a popping sound, and is debilitating. Partial and full Achilles tendon ruptures are most likely to occur in sports requiring sudden eccentric stretching, such as sprinting and racquet sports.
Partial Achilles tendon tears are also common among middle and long distance runners. Achilles tendon ruptures are most likely to occur to middle age athletes who have not been training or who have been doing relatively little training. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between Achilles tendinosis and a partial Achilles tendon tear. Consult a physician to be sure. For more information on these and other Achilles tendon injuries see: Types of Achilles Tendon Injuries.
Treatment for Achilles tendinosis includes: relative rest, muscle strengthening, physical therapies (i.e. ultrasound, laser photostimulation, electrical stimulation), and ice. Treatment for an Achilles rupture can be surgical or non-surgical, and involves immobilization, casts or wraps, and physical therapy. Consult a physician to be sure. For more information on treating these and other Achilles tendon injuries see: Treating Achilles Tendon Injuries.