Achilles Tendonitis

Tendons are thick, fibrous cords of connective tissue that connect muscles and bones to facilitate movement. The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the body. It is responsible for flexion of the knee and plantar flexion of the ankle joint for actions such as running, climbing, and jumping. Repetitive stress and strain to this tendon can cause it to become inflamed and irritated, resulting in Achilles tendonitis.

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Overview

Achilles tendinopathy can occur if inflammation and microtrauma to the Achilles tendon does not heal properly, causing further damage to build up over time. The ensuing collagen degeneration and scar tissue formation reduces tendon flexibility, causing it to thicken, along with forming lumps within the region of scar tissue. Calcifications can develop at the insertion point of the Achilles into the calcaneus, and even extend into the tendon in chronic cases of Achilles tendinopathy. Continued overuse can cause the tendon to rupture or tear.

Causes of Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is typically not related to a specific traumatic incident but results from repetitive stress to the tendon. This usually occurs when trying to do too much physical activity, too soon-  but other factors can also contribute to the injury. These factors include are:
  • Leg length discrepancy
  • Overuse
  • Increasing the intensity of activity too quickly
  • Changing training surfaces too abruptly (soft to hard)
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Too tight or fatigued muscles
  • Not warming up adequately
  • Deviated or unstable rearfoot axis

Other factors such as obesity, age, and diabetes can also increase an individual’s risk for developing achilles tendonitis. Individuals who participate in sports, such as Basketball, Running, and Gymnastics also face a higher risk of achilles tendon injuries. This is because the tendon receives a stress load of up to 4 times our body weight while walking, and almost 8 times when running. Continuous pressure on the lower limbs must be managed if signs of achilles tendonitis occur. To prevent further damage to the tendon, please consult a podiatrist for advice.

Managing Achilles Tendonitis

  • Perform R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for a new or minor injury – Rest the injury by cutting back on aggravating activities. Ice the injured site using an ice pack for 15 mins several times a day to reduce the inflammation. Compression can be performed using an elastic wrap or bandage. Elevate the affected limb to reduce swelling
  • Performstretching of the calf muscles daily, after the acute pain and inflammation has abated
  • Extracorporeal Magnetotransduction Therapy (EMTT) or Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) can accelerate the body’s healing process, provide pain relief, promote reduction in muscle tension, and stimulate the formation of new blood vessels
  • Customised foot orthotics can address foot alignment and improve joint motions during propulsion/ toe-off in the gait cycle and aid in recovery
  • Immobilisation with the use of a walking boot is needed if the injury is severe, or with an ankle foot orthotic (AFO) if the patient is able to walk with minimal pressure

How Do I Prevent Achilles Tendonitis?

  • Choose the appropriate footwear for specific activities
  • Perform warm-up and cool-down exercises when participating in sports or exercise
  • Regular calf stretching should be performed to maintain an optimal range of motion and increase flexibility
  • Exercise routines with vigorous activities should be altered to avoid overuse injuries

If your condition is recurrent or deteriorating, it is important to take mindful steps to prevent an eventual tendon tear or rupture. Conservative methods, such as physical therapy, can help by accelerating the rate of recovery, optimising sports performance, and pain reduction.

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Common Symptoms

Ache or sharp pain anywhere along the back of the tendon and posterior heel
Limited motion
Redness
Warmth
Mild to severe aching pain the day after exercising
Pain and stiffness along the tendon in the morning
Swelling
Noticeable lump development at the posterior heel

How It Looks Like

No items found.

Related Conditions

FAQs

What is the fastest way to heal Achilles Tendonitis?

Non-invasive interventions, such as shockwave therapy, can help hasten recovery from Achilles tendonitis. Home remedies, such as the R-I-C-E, can help reduce pain, but they will not address the underlying issue.

Is walking good for Achilles tendonitis?

Walking may worsen your Achilles tendonitis condition. Instead, try stretching or other forms of exercise that minimise putting weight on your feet.

Can footwear choices cause or affect Achilles tendonitis?

Yes, improper and ill-fitting footwear can cause Achilles tendonitis by providing inadequate support or affecting the biomechanics and function of your tendons. Speak to a podiatrist for professional advice on footwear if you are currently experiencing any pain.

Does Achilles tendonitis cause footwear to wear out quickly?

Achilles tendonitis often results in a prominent lump at the back of the heel. This lump can cause friction along the soft material at the back of the shoe, causing it to wear out quickly. When shoes are worn out, they need to be replaced as they no longer offer optimal support.

What happens if Achilles tendonitis is ignored?

If left unresolved, it will likely worsen and wind up being a chronic issue. In severe cases, the tendon may rupture, making surgery the only option. Early intervention can help prevent the condition from deteriorating and improve your chances of a full recovery. Do speak to a podiatrist for advice.

Is it possible to ‘run through’ the pain?

It is not advisable to carry on as normal and ignore the pain in your Achilles tendon. Patients frequently only experience pain in the early parts of their run and may think it is possible to run past or through the pain. This will only worsen the injury and cause the situation to develop into a chronic issue. To prevent this, do seek early intervention from a local podiatrist.

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An ankle specialist, such as a podiatrist, will be able to perform a thorough foot assessment using diagnostic tools, such as a musculoskeletal diagnostic ultrasound to determine the source of your ankle pain. If surgery is required, your podiatrist will refer you to a trusted foot and ankle doctor for surgical solutions.

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Immobilising the area with splints

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