What is achilles tendinopathy?
The achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body. It attaches the calf muscles to the calcaneus and is responsible for pushing the body forward during walking, as well as the more explosive movements during running, jumping and landing. Because of its daily importance in everything we do, it can be prone to injury.
Achilles tendinopathy in most cases is an overuse injury that develops over a period of repetitive strain. It most commonly affects athletes with high training loads, but can also affect sedentary people as well. Achilles tendinopathy can manifest both at the insertion and the midportion of the tendon.
Symptoms of achilles tendinopathy
Symptoms of achilles tendinopathy include:
- Swelling and warmth over the achilles tendon
- Severity of pain can differ from a mild ache to a sharp pain
- Pain is often worse after a period of rest and warms up with mild activity
- If chronic, a palpable lump may be evident within the achilles tendon – this is scar tissue that has formed due to repetitive trauma
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms it is best to make an appointment with your podiatrist for assessment and diagnosis. Early diagnosis results in faster healing times.
Common causes of achilles tendinopathy
Common causes of achilles tendinopathy include:
- An increase in training loads.
- Overuse – micro-tearing in the achilles tendon occurs with repetitive stress over time.
- Footwear – Wearing inappropriate footwear with poor support can contribute to the development of achilles tendinopathy.
- Gait – The way that you walk can also contribute e.g people who pronate (roll in) excessively are more predisposed to achilles problems because of the abnormal pull and mechanical stress force on the tendon.
- Overweight – Being overweight places more strain on the achilles tendon.
Treatment of achilles injuries
The aim of treating achilles tendinopathy is to reduce inflammation and offload the tendon so that strengthening and rehabilitation can be commenced. Treatment options may involve:
- Activity modification – resting from activities that aggravate the condition e.g running uphill or sprints.
- RICER – rest, ice, compression, elevation, referral.
- Supportive footwear
- A comprehensive strength and flexibility program issued to you by your podiatrist.
- Temporary use of heel lifts – this will take stress off the tendon but must be used over the short term to avoid shortening of the tendon.
- Orthotics are a handy tool in offloading the achilles tendon as they assist in shifting the forces away from the achilles by controlling foot movement.
If you suspect troubles with your achilles tendon, please make sure you get onto treatment as soon as possible. Make an appointment with one of our Melbourne podiatrists today for accurate diagnosis and treatment of achilles problems.