Achilles tendinitis is a condition characterized by inflammation and irritation of the Achilles tendon, which is a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the calf muscles. It can be caused by overuse, injury, or degeneration of the tendon, and is most commonly seen in athletes who engage in activities that involve running and jumping. Symptoms of Achilles tendinitis can include pain and stiffness in the affected area, swelling, and tenderness. If left untreated, the condition can progress to a more severe form of tendon damage, such as a partial or complete tear of the Achilles tendon.
Causes of Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Overuse: Repeated stress on the Achilles tendon from activities like running, jumping, or playing sports can lead to micro-tears in the tendon, causing inflammation and pain.
Tight calf muscles: When the calf muscles are tight, they put additional strain on the Achilles tendon, making it more susceptible to injury.
Poor footwear: Wearing shoes that don’t provide enough support or don’t fit properly can put additional strain on the Achilles tendon.
Sudden increase in activity level: Starting a new exercise routine or increasing the intensity or frequency of workouts too quickly can put too much strain on the Achilles tendon.
Age: As we age, the Achilles tendon becomes less flexible and more prone to injury.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions like arthritis or gout can increase the risk of developing Achilles tendinitis.
Anatomic factors: Having flat feet or an abnormal foot structure can also contribute to the development of Achilles tendinitis.
Signs and Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis
The most common signs and symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include:
- Pain and stiffness in the back of the heel, especially when walking or running.
- Tenderness or soreness when pressing on the Achilles tendon.
- Swelling or thickening of the tendon.
- Limited range of motion in the ankle joint.
- A popping or cracking sound at the time of injury.
- Redness or warmth around the affected area.
- A feeling of weakness or fatigue in the calf muscles.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the tendon.
Treatment for Achilles Tendinitis
Physiotherapy is a common treatment option for Achilles tendinitis, and can include the following:
Rest and activity modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate the symptoms, and modifying the activity level to allow for healing.
Stretching and strengthening exercises: A physiotherapist can teach specific exercises to stretch the calf muscles and strengthen the Achilles tendon, which can help to reduce pain and prevent future injury.
Manual therapy: Techniques such as massage, joint mobilization, and soft tissue release may be used to relieve pain and improve range of motion.
Ultrasound therapy: This is a type of therapy that uses high-frequency sound waves to promote healing and reduce inflammation in the affected area.
Orthotics: Custom-made shoe inserts can help to correct abnormal foot mechanics, reducing strain on the Achilles tendon.
Taping or bracing: Taping or bracing the ankle can help to support the affected area and reduce strain on the tendon.
Gradual return to activity: Once symptoms have improved, a physiotherapist can guide a gradual return to activity to prevent further injury.
It’s important to work closely with a physiotherapist to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs and to follow the recommended treatment plan to ensure the best possible outcome.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about achilles tendinitis please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Silbernagel, K. G., Brorsson, A., Lundberg, M., & Ackermann, P. W. (2019). Cross-cultural adaptation, reliability, and validity of the Achilles tendon Total Rupture Score. American Journal of Sports Medicine