What is Achilles Tendon?

Your Body's Key to Mobility
Achilles Tendon

Achilles Tendon

Your Body's Key to Mobility

The Achilles' tendon, commonly known as the heel cord or calcaneal tendon, is a vital structure positioned at the rear of your lower leg. Remarkably, it holds the title of being the thickest tendon in the human body, serving as the anchor point for numerous calf muscles to attach to the heel bone or calcaneus.

This tendon is instrumental in a range of movements, such as enabling the downward movement of the foot (plantar flexion) at the ankle joint and aiding in knee flexion, with the exception of the soleus muscle, which primarily contributes to ankle movement.

Historical Insights

The term "Achilles tendon" dates back to 1693, named after the Greek mythological hero, Achilles. According to legend, Achilles was held by his heel by his mother, Thetis, as she dipped him into the River Styx to render his body invulnerable.

However, his heel, untouched by the water, remained his sole vulnerable spot. Hence, the phrase "Achilles' heel" was coined, symbolising a point of weakness or vulnerability. This historical reference also emphasises the disabling and painful impact of an injury to this tendon.

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Structural Composition

The Achilles tendon connects the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, commonly known as the calf muscles, to the calcaneus bone. Originating from the middle of the calf, it gradually tapers down to its insertion point on the back of the calcaneus bone.

The tendon is covered by fascia and skin and stands out prominently behind the bone. It also contains a bursa, a fluid-filled sac, which helps to reduce friction during movement. Interestingly, the Achilles tendon has a poor blood supply, making it prone to injuries and slower healing.


The Achilles tendon is crucial for various movements, primarily plantar flexion of the foot and flexion of the leg at the knee joint. These actions are essential for activities like walking, running, and jumping.

The spiral arrangement of tendon fibres allows for efficient force transmission from the muscles to the bone, enhancing movement efficiency. Additionally, the tendon plays a significant role in postural orientation, as vibrations in the tendon influence body position and balance.

Clinical Significance and Common Conditions

The Achilles tendon is susceptible to various abnormalities, including inflammation (Achilles tendinitis), degeneration (tendinosis), rupture, and cholesterol deposits (xanthomas). Achilles tendinitis is characterised by pain and swelling around the tendon, often due to overuse or trauma.

Tendinosis involves degenerative changes within the tendon, typically identified through medical imaging techniques like MRI or ultrasound. Achilles tendon rupture is a severe injury, resulting in the sudden onset of sharp pain and difficulty walking. Additionally, individuals with lipid metabolism disorders may develop cholesterol deposits within the tendon.

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In conclusion, the Achilles tendon is a vital structure that facilitates mobility and stability in the lower extremities. Understanding its anatomy, function, and common conditions is crucial for preventing injuries and promoting overall musculoskeletal health.

Proper conditioning, stretching, and biomechanical awareness can help maintain the integrity of the Achilles tendon, ensuring optimal performance and reducing the risk of debilitating injuries.

The information provided on this platform is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
The authors and creators of this platform do not endorse or recommend any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.
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