What is Achilles tendinitis?
Achilles Tendinitis, also known as Achilles Tendinosis or Achilles Tendinopathy, is a condition whereby the tendon that connects the heel bone to the calf muscle becomes aggravated, inflamed and weakened.
It is characterised by pain and swelling above or at the back of the heel bone and sometimes in the calf.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and plays a role in shock absorption during jumping and running activities. It has a relatively poor blood supply and consequently does not heal as well as other tendons in the body when exposed to damage.
Achilles tendinitis is common in runners and athletes. This is because loading on the Achilles tendon can reach up to 12.5 times a persons body weight during running.
Below we will outline the causes and predisposing factors for Achilles tendon injury and the signs and symptoms to watch out for.
Cause of Achilles Tendinitis
To put it simply, tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon. Inflammation is characterised by pain, swelling and loss of function. Once the Achilles has been injured, if not attended to quickly enough it can enter into a cycle of chronic inflammation and non-healing.
There are three main factors which predispose people to developing Achilles tendinitis:
- Sudden increases in activity- particularly activities that involve running or jumping. This means that the muscle becomes strained without allowing it to properly adapt to the change.
- Tight calf muscle or Achilles tendon- which acts like an elastic band that is pulled too tight. If it is pulled too tight it can develop tears or rupture all together.
- Flattening out of the arch of the foot (over-pronation): As the foot flattens out, the Achilles tendon can become “bent” and the angle of pull predisposes injury.
- Wearing incorrect footwear
- Stiff ankle joints: Reduced ankle range of motion means the Achilles needs to absorb more force while walking or performing movements.
- Running on hard or uneven surfaces
- Bone spur- extra bone growth at the Achilles attachment to the heel bone. It has been suggested that this causes friction against the tendon, further damaging it. A bone spur usually develops in response to the Achilles tendon being tight, so it is a cyclical effect.
- Inadequate stretching, warm up or cool down
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinosis
Signs you may have Achilles tendonitis include:
- Pain on movement: Aching, tenderness or stiffness at the back of the heel bone, along the Achilles tendon or into the calf. Usually most painful when taking the first steps in the morning of after inactivity.
- Pain on squeezing tendon: Your practitioner will test this
- Stiffness that improves with movement
- Enlargement or thickening of the tendon. Lumps (nodules) can form over the tendon
If these signs are noted, it is important that the individual seeks treatment to prevent the tendon from being severely injured and requiring surgery (complete rupture).
Generally, the sooner that treatment begins, the faster that healing will occur. Alternatively the longer it is left untreated, the longer the road to recovery.
Treatment usually involves a multi-faceted approach involving shockwave therapy, taping, orthotic therapy, massage, dry needling, stretching and muscle strengthening.
Make a podiatrist appointment for Achilles tendinitis treatment.
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From assessment and diagnosis to extraordinary treatment, every step of your journey with us will deliver you the ultimate podiatric experience, resulting in healthier and happier feet.
Book a consultation with our podiatrists in Sydney (Macquarie St), Darlinghurst and Randwick to discuss your condition and we’ll get you pain-free and back to full function as smoothly and quickly as possible, so you can return to the activities and life you love.