Achilles tendonitis is a type of injury that occurs due to the overuse of the Achilles tendon. This tissue band directly connects the muscles in the calf – which are located at the back section of the lower leg – to the bone of the heel. This type of tendonitis is common among runners and the middle-aged who engage in various types of sports in short spurts. We know that physical therapy for Achilles Tendonitis can help. In this comprehensive guide, you will learn more about this injury, the symptoms, and more measures for resolution.
What are the Two Signs of Achilles Tendonitis?
There are 2 main signs associated with Achilles tendonitis. The first is pain in the area above the heel and/or lower back leg. The second is stiffness and tenderness that occurs after periods of inactivity, but resolves with activity. Other symptoms include the following:
- Pain the day following exercising
- The tendon becoming thicker
- The development of a bone spur
- Swelling that seems to worsen with activity
Is There a Symptom of Achilles Tendonitis That I Should be Concerned About?
Yes, there is a symptom that you should be concerned about if you suffer from Achilles tendonitis; that is, a sudden pop in the back of the heel or the calf. This typically indicates that the Achilles tendon has been ruptured or torn.
If this happens, you should meet with a doctor as soon as possible. This will help in obtaining assistance with the issue before it advances to a more severe problem.
What is the Achilles Tendon?
The Achilles tendon is a very strong cord that is fibrous that connects the muscles located in the back of the calf directly to the heel bone.
This particular tendon is named after Achilles – a mythological figure of mythology – due to the fact that it is located in the only area of the body of Achilles that was still considered to be vulnerable immediately after his mother dipped him within the River Styx because she was holding him at that location.
The Achilles tendon has been identified as the biggest and the absolutely strongest of all tendons within the body. It attaches two of the calf muscles – the gastrocnemius and the soleus – directly to the heel bone – the calcaneus. This is the tendon that helps to make it possible for individuals to walk on their tiptoes. If overused, immense pain and swelling may occur.
If the pain and swelling is lower in the heel, you may have Retrocalcaneal Bursitis instead. Make sure to always have a professional diagnosis before treating your condition.
Does Achilles Tendonitis Ever Go Away?
If you rest it, the tendonitis that occurs within the Achilles tendon may go away in as little as 6 weeks or as long as a few months.
What Happens if I Don’t Treat Achilles Tendonitis?
If you do not have Achilles tendonitis treated, it will worsen as time progresses. You will notice pain occurring down the back side of the leg and in the area of the heel. The tendon may then start thickening. Over time, this thickening could lead to hardening. In addition to this, you may rupture the tendon. If you experience Achilles tendonitis, it is imperative that you seek out treatment to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
How Serious is Achilles Tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis has the capability of weakening the tendon. When this weakening occurs, it creates a high level of vulnerability. This could then lead to a tear. If a rupture does occur, it will result in immense pain and usually will require surgical-based repair.
Should I Wrap My Achilles Tendonitis?
If you experience an overuse tendon injury and suffer from inflammation, pain, and even potential tears within the tendon, taping will help in supporting all of the structures and the surrounding area so that healing occurs and further injuries are prevented.
What is Achilles Tendinopathy?
Achilles tendinopathy is not 100% understood within the medical community; however, we do know that it happens when this particular tendon in the body is unable to properly adapt to the amount of strain that is being placed on it.
As a result, small levels of damage occur on a regular basis within the fibers. In some instances, this condition is referred to as “Achilles tendinitis”, “Achilles tendonitis”, or “Achilles tendinosis”. Many use all of these terms interchangeably.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Achilles Tendonitis?
There are several risks associated with developing Achilles tendonitis. In most instances, the main risk is load being placed on the tendon through exercising. The following outlines the general risks associated with the condition:
- The condition most often impacts individuals that are 30 years of age or older.
- Achilles tendonitis is most common in men, but it does happen in women, too.
- Being overweight increases the likelihood that Achilles tendonitis may occur.
- Calf muscles that are weak or are tight may have an impact on the development of the condition.
- Individuals that have diabetes are more susceptible to the development of this form of tendonitis.
- If the calf muscles have a low endurance level – in terms of strength – it could result in the development of Achilles tendonitis.
- If there is low core stability in and/or around the hip or the knee, tendonitis is more likely to occur.
- If the joints are stiff within the foot, tendonitis is more likely to negatively impact an individual.
There are many aspects of both exercising and physical training that increases the risk that Achilles tendonitis may develop. The following outlines these risks:
- Running with a high level of intensity or running too far of a distance
- Increasing the distance that you run too quickly in training
- Wearing shoes that are poor in quality or are too old
- Running uphill too much
- Switching directions quickly during running or exercising
How is Achilles Tendonitis Diagnosed?
In most instances, a doctor or a physiotherapist is able to successfully diagnose Achilles tendonitis by conducting a thorough examination. In many instances, imaging will be required. In these cases, an ultrasound will typically be performed. The sound waves from the machine will create an image of the Achilles tendon on the screen so that the examining doctor may determine if there is tendonitis. In rare cases, an MRI may be done.
How is Achilles Tendonitis Treated?
There are several effective treatments available for those that suffer from Achilles tendonitis. These include the following:
- Ice – It is advised that a sufferer wrap ice within a damp towel and apply it to the area for 20 minutes at a time, up to 4 times daily. If exercising or walking is performed, ice may be applied to the affected area afterwards.
- Alternative Exercises – If the Achilles tendon is affected, alternative exercises should be performed. This helps to rest the tendon, but ensures that the level of physical fitness is maintained. Examples of productive exercises include cycling, jogging in water, and swimming.
- Over-The-Counter Pain Medications – If there is pain and inflammation of the Achilles tendon, over-the-counter pain medications may be taken for relief. Examples include Advil Dual Action and Ibuprofen.
- Physiotherapy – Individuals with Achilles tendonitis may benefit from various types of physiotherapy such as stretches, manual manipulation techniques, and even certain types of exercises as instructed by industry professionals.
- Eccentric Exercise Program – This is a specific program that is designed to aid in reducing inflammation associated with Achilles tendonitis. It is a type of rehabilitation program for sufferers.
- Podiatry – Many individuals benefit from going to a podiatrist to get an assessment for inserts that may be placed within the shoes.
- High Volume Injection – This is a special combination of an anesthetic and saline that is injected directly into the affected tendon.
- Dry Needling – This is a procedure that is similar to that of acupuncture and aids in reducing pain.
- Autologous Blood Injection – This is an injection that involves taking the patient’s blood and then injecting it into the tendon that is affected. This is a procedure that seems to help in encouraging the body to heal itself.
- GTN Patches – GTN is a combination of glyceryl and trinitrate. The patches are placed directly on the area in order to reduce inflammation and pain that is being experienced.
- Surgery – In some instances, surgery is required. This most commonly occurs in patients who have Achilles tendonitis and have ruptured the tendon.
What are the Best Exercises for Achilles Tendonitis?
The following outlines a couple of the most productive exercises for Achilles tendonitis:
- Soleus Muscle Stretching – Use a wall to support you and then put a foot flat down on the floor located behind you. Bend the knee and lean forward. This will reduce the angle between the shin and the foot. You will be able to feel the stretching in the back of the calf. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minutes.
- Gastrocnemius Muscle Stretching – Set up the same as the previous exercise, except lean forward. Hold the stretch.
Let Us Help
If you suffer from Achilles tendonitis, you will be glad to know that we here at Back to Motion Physical Therapy are able to assist you in overcoming the pain and inflammation associated with the condition. The steps that we take will encourage the healing of the joint and help you avoid rupturing the tendon and having to have surgery performed. For additional information or to set up an appointment, contact us today by calling the following number: 303-832-5577