Summary of Achilles Tendinopathy
Achilles Tendinopathy is a painful and debilitating condition caused by inflammation within the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel. Excessive use of the calf muscles, for example during running and jumping, cause the inflammation that leads to a build up of scar tissue and break down of the tendon. As soon as signs of achilles tendinopathy become apparent, it is important to rest and avoid provoking the issue.
Achilles Tendinopathy FAQ's
Excessive stress to the tendon connecting the calf muscle to the back of the heel, results in inflammation, scarring and ultimately degeneration of the tendon. The most common area where the breakdown is found is where the tendon attaches to the heel. In practice, Achilles Tendinopathy refers to most issues related to the achilles tendon, although technically it refers only to a chronic and degenerative process.
The most common symptoms are severe pain to the back of the heel. Symptoms are often aggravated further by running, jumping, hopping and even walking. Patients often report that the pain is bad when they start an activity but eases during the course of the movement, returning once they have finished. Over time patients notice that the tendon appears to be visibly inflamed as well as painful, thickening and causing pain in other areas of the foot and calf. Some patients even suggest it sounds like the tendon is creaking.
With the right level of physiotherapy and rest, patients should recover within a few weeks. Occasionally this may take longer in long term cases, which is why early intervention is key to correcting the issue.
The most consistent cause is overactivity, engaging regularly in the activities mentioned earlier that put strain on the tendon. If a patient ignores the early signals that something may be wrong, then the outcome can become worse with excessive scar tissue forming and causing the tendon to degenerate. Another cause could be regularly wearing high heels which leave the tendon and calf muscles in a shortened position, creating problems when the individual takes those shoes off any tries to walk around on a flat surface – the muscles go from being in a short position to being stretched very quickly, leading to irritation.
If the issue is caught and treated early, then simple rest should prevent the condition from worsening and restore the individual to normal. Ice therapy and ultrasound may be used to tone down and treat the inflammation, and orthotics may be prescribed if the issue is being caused by angular feet. Tight muscles will require regular prescribed exercises, and a clinician may ask to see your training program to assess if this is a cause for concern. In the more chronic scenario where scar tissue has been allowed to develop, the treatment must revolve around treating the scar tissue build up. This may involve localised massage techniques to focus on the tendon, stretches, ultrasound and heat treatment. In both cases, avoiding any activities that provoke the issue are highly recommended.
The cause of an achilles tendinopathy is often overuse. It is essential that the exercises are performed correctly and regularly in order to relieve strain on the achilles tendon and ensure any tightening of the muscle is alleviated. The success of recovery depends on the quality with which you carry out the exercises prescribed.