What is it?
The Achilles Tendon “Achilles” joins the calf muscles to the back of the ankle. The Achilles is the largest and strongest tendon in the human body and can withstand forces of 450kg or more. It is, however, also the most commonly ruptured tendon, usually as a result of a sports injury. Inflammation of this tendon is called Achilles Tendonitis and is common in both professional and weekend athletes as well as those who spend a large amount of time on their feet for work or other recreational activities. Typically, Achilles Tendonitis is an overuse injury, meaning that it starts out as very small amounts of damage to the tendon but gradually gets worse and worse with repeated activity. There are a number of common “stories” our patients tell us when they present with Achilles Tendonitis, such as:
- Hill running and/or stair climbing
- Rapidly increasing speed or distance when walking, running or jogging
- Returning to sport or activity too quickly after resting during the offseason
- Not adequately warming up or stretching prior to exercise
- Improper footwear and/or over pronation (“flat-footed”)
- Increase in body weight
Achilles Tendonitis is characterised by recurring, localised pain (sometimes severe) along the tendon during or a few hours after exercise, stiffness in the calf, swelling over the tendon or in the ankle and sometimes weakness.
4 Life Podiatry
Initial treatment from our podiatrist will be aimed at reducing pain and inflammation and reducing the strain on the tendon to assist with healing. Reducing the strain on the tendon is often achieved by wearing a shoe insert to raise the heel and/or the use of orthotics in the case of high or low arches. Dry Needling, taping, soft tissue massage and a customised rehabilitation program including stretching and strengthening will all assist in the treatment of Achilles Tendonitis. For more chronic (long term) or stubborn cases Shockwave Therapy has been shown to be very effective.
It is likely that some level of reduction in physical activity will be necessary for up to 4-6 weeks before a gradual return is possible. Without treatment and reduction in activity (as prescribed by your podiatrist), Achilles Tendonitis can become chronic and last for up to 12-months or longer.
Prevention & Home Management Strategies
Prevention of Achilles Tendonitis can be achieved by:
- Ensuring a good warmup and cool down, including stretches, when undertaking physical activity such as sports or physical work.
- Avoiding dramatic increases in exercise levels, unless under the guidance of a professional
- Wearing supportive shoes fitted by a professional shoe shop or podiatrist
- Avoid wearing high heeled shoes on a regular basis
- Maintain a healthy body weight
Should you develop signs of Achilles Tendonitis, the following may assist with your recovery:
- Apply ice to the area for 20minutes, up to every 2 hours after activity
- Reduce the activities that aggravate the condition
- Elevate the leg to assist with reducing swelling
- Wear compression garments