Q:

What is the Achilles reflex?

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Quick Answer

The Achilles reflex, also called the ankle jerk reflex, is an abrupt bending of the foot when a doctor strikes a person's Achilles tendon, which is located just above the heel. In a positive response, the foot moves as if the person is pointing his toes.

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What is the Achilles reflex?
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Full Answer

A reflex is a movement in a muscle when a tendon is tapped, usually with a small hammer. If a reflex is decreased or absent, a nerve supplying the muscle might be impaired or compressed. The Achilles tendon connects the muscle at the back of the calf to the heel bone. When the Achilles reflex is tested, the Achilles tendon is tapped while the foot is relaxed at a right angle to the rest of the leg.

The reflex is graded on a scale of zero to four, with zero meaning that the reflex is absent. A score of zero or one for the Achilles reflex often indicates a compression in the S1 or S2 region of the spine, which are at the base of the spine around the tailbone. This type of compression is associated with sciatica, back pain that travels through the buttock and down the sciatic nerve of one leg.

Other common causes of a reduced or absent Achilles reflex include a herniated disk, hypothyroidism and hypothermia. A qualified health professional must test the Achilles reflex to make a diagnosis.

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Related Questions

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    What are some reasons that Achilles tendon lengthening would need to be done in children?

    A:

    The most common need for Achilles tendon lengthening in children is to help with foot position and flexibility in patients with cerebral palsy, says WebMD. Sometimes, tendon lengthening helps to decrease pressure on the front part of the foot in the event of sores or uclers.

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    What are symptoms of S1 nerve root damage?

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    Impingement of the nerve root at S1 causes symptoms such as weakness at the back of the calf, numbness on the outside of the foot, difficulty with foot push-off and absence of the ankle jerk reflex, states Spine-Health. Pain often radiates down the lower back, through the buttock, down the back of the thigh and calf, to the side of the foot, says the Laser Spine Institute. Nerve root impingement at L5-S1 results from a common type of disc herniation.

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    What do swollen ankles mean?

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    According to WebMD, swollen ankles commonly occur when a person stands or walks a lot, but if swollen ankles persist or are accompanied by other symptoms, they could be an indication of a serious health problem, such as pregnancy complications, foot or ankle injury, lymphedema and venous insufficiency. Sudden or excessive swelling is a possible sign of preeclampsia.

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    How do you treat an Achilles heel tendon injury?

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    The best ways to treat an Achilles tendon injury include ice packs, an elastic bandage wrap, taking ibuprofen, resting and doing some stretching exercises, according to WebMD. Most often the above treatments take care of the problem. However in severe cases, when the heel is ruptured, surgery may be required.

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