What is Achilles Tendinopathy?
Tendons are tough cords of connective tissue that connect our muscles to bones. Our Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in our body. This tendon runs from our huge calf muscles and connects to the heel bone. This tendon works together with our muscles to help us walk, run, jump, climb and perform our daily activities. Despite its ability to withstand and endure stress, injury can happen when the tendon gets over stressed.
Tendinopathy happens when a tendon gets irritated and inflamed. Inflammation is our body’s natural response towards disease, and in this case, injury. Overuse of the Achilles tendon may cause the tendon to swell up, become irritated and painful.
Tendinopathy can occur if this inflammation and injury to the Achilles tendon is left alone and does not heal properly. The quality of the tendon degenerates, scar tissue forms, and the tendon structure loses its integrity. This results in thickening of the tendon, and even formation of calcifications at the insertion at the heel bone.
In general, Achilles tendinopathies may not be only a result of a traumatic event, but as a repetitive overuse of the tendon. There are several reasons why Achilles tendinopathy develops, these include – but are not limited to:
- A sudden increase in training or physical activity
- Participation in sports that require sudden stops and starts
- Taking part in intense activity without appropriate training or poor conditioning
- Poor footwear choices
- Tightness or weakness in calf muscles
- Poor foot posture and biomechanics such as hypermobility or instability
- Long hours of standing for work
- Abrupt change in training terrain or surface
- Limb length difference
- Factors such as age, medical history – such as Diabetes, and obesity are also factors that contribute to the development of Achilles Tendinopathy.
What will I experience?
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinopathy may include:
- Swelling around the posterior heel and Achilles Tendon region
- Achiness or sharp pain along the tendon or posterior heel region
- Reduction in range of movement of the ankle or stiffness in the morning
- Lower limb weakness
- Increased discomfort and pain after doing activity or exercising
- Palpable thickening along the Achilles tendon
- Pain on first weight bearing after a period of rest
Generally, this condition has a gradual onset which increases in intensity with continued activity. Strain and pressure on the Achilles Tendon must be reduced if there are symptoms of Achilles Tendinopathy to prevent further tendon deterioration and/or possible rupture of the tendon.
How can we help you?
At the Rehab Centre, we specialise in non-surgical conservative treatment of Achilles Tendinopathy. If the pain persists, it is recommended to consult a health professional for expert consultation and treatment.
Your Podiatrist will be able to help you with your Achilles Tendon injury by:
- Reducing pull and strain of the tendon by using clinical paddings to offload the area
- Education of appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises to strengthen the tendon
- Offering in depth and comprehensive footwear evaluation and advice on supportive footwear to reduce the likelihood for further trauma
- Performing an in-depth biomechanical and musculoskeletal evaluation to identify any potential faults in foot posture and function and prescribe functional corrective orthotics to help prevent the condition from recurring.
It is also extremely important that with such overuse injuries, activity modification and cessation of the aggravating factor must happen, so that the tendon does not get aggravated further.
However, the importance of appropriate physical therapy cannot be underestimated. You may be referred to a Physiotherapist for a personalised physical therapy plan for you to keep the tendon healthy and strong, before easing back into your previous level of activity.
Achilles tendonitis is common in athletes, and in active people. The more time spent waiting for a resolution, the longer the recovery. Non-surgical conservative methods such as custom foot orthotics, physical therapy, and activity modification are effective in treating Achilles Tendinopathy. Do not hesitate to reach out and find out how we can help you.
How can I reduce the risk of developing Achilles Tendinopathy?
- Increase your activity intensity and duration gradually
- Perform physical therapy to strengthen your calf muscles
- Stretch your calf muscles daily
- Use appropriate footwear and replace worn out shoes
- Take a rest where needed to allow your body to recover and become stronger
Do my shoes cause me to develop Achilles Tendinopathy?
Can I just walk off this injury and wait-and-see if it gets better?
Simple home remedies and resting may help to alleviate your symptoms. However, if we have an injury, and continue to do what we have been doing, the chances of the injury getting worse is increased. With Achilles tendinopathy, there is a possibility that pain becomes chronic, and in its worst case, a rupture of the Achilles Tendon. The more time spent waiting for a resolution, the longer the recovery. Non-surgical conservative methods such as custom foot orthotics, physical therapy, and activity modification are effective in treating Achilles Tendinopathy. Do not hesitate to reach out and find out how we can help you.