The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the human body. It is located in the back of the lower leg attaching the gastrocs and soleus muscles (calf) to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon gives us the ability to rise up on our toes and provides the forceful propulsion necessary for walking, jumping and running.
Achilles tendonitis is now being referred to as achilles tendinopathy because it is no longer thought to be an inflammatory condition. The main finding is most often degeneration of the normal fibrous tissue.
There are several causes of achilles tendinopathy: overuse or poor progression of training programs; weak calf musculature; changes in footwear; ankle and foot joint dysfunction to name a few.
The symptoms of achilles tendinopathy include a gradual onset of pain over a few days, pain at the onset of exercise which fades with ‘warming up’, pain that eases with rest, and tenderness on palpation. Symptoms become more severe, longer lasting and painful with walking or running up hill and up stairs. Acute achilles tendinopathy may become chronic if it is not treated or is not allowed sufficient rest. Chronic achilles tendinopathy can lead to rupture of the tendon which must be surgically repaired involving a long rehabilitation process.
The treatments for achilles tendinopathy include: ice application for 10-12 minutes, especially following aggravating activities; ultrasound; calf stretching exercises; progressive strengthening exercises gradually increasing resistance, range of motion and speed. Sometimes during the acute phase, it is necessary to use a short term heel lift to alleviate symptoms.
If you experience the symptoms of achilles tendinopathy, see your physiotherapist who can help you determine the cause of the pain and get you moving comfortably.