The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body which connects the calf muscles to the heel.Tendinitis is an overuse injury causing inflammation of the tendon. Inflammation is the natural response of the body to injuries which produces swelling and pain.The problem results from repetitive stress to the tendon.
- Tightness of calf muscles: having tight calf muscles and suddenly starting an aggressive exercises may put extra pressure on the Achilles tendon
- Sudden increase in the amount of exercises: for example, increasing the distance you run every day by a few miles without giving your body time to adjust to increased strain on the muscles.
- Bone spur: extra bone growth (calcification) at the Achilles tendon attaching to the heel bone can rub against the tendon and cause pain and sometimes tearing of the fibers
- A pre-existing condition of the foot or ankle, ie. a flat or rigid foot puts more stress along one side of the tendon
- Pain and stiffness around the Achilles tendon, worse in the morning
- Pain and stiffness around the heel, worse with activity
- Swelling and thickening of the tendon
- Bone spur on the tendon attachment or on the heel bone
- May have a popping sound which indicates tearing of the tendon
Like other inflammatory disorders, achilles tendinitis requires physiotherapy to reduce the inflammation and remove the scar tissue, while also helping the tendon to regain its normal length. As the tendon does not have sufficient blood supply, the healing process takes longer time.
Resting, icing, and ultrasound and mild stretching are the primary physiotherapy treatments. Athletes do not need to stop all activity or exercise, but should choose a milder activity level to not aggravate the condition while continuing to stretch and strengthen.
Your physiotherapist at Physio Savvy plans a strengthening/stretching exercises programs after applying the primary conservative treatments to reduce the inflammation. Stretching exercise includes stretching of the achilles tendon and calf muscles in various positions for both soleus and gastrocnemius muscles. The strengthening program includs eccentric and concentric exercises for calf muscle and Achilles tendon. We usually recommend medicated insoles (Foot levelers) for those who have flat feet to correct the biomechanics of the foot and release the extra stress on the foot and tendon.
If you do not take care of your tendinitis, it may become chronic and very hard to treat. If you feel pain or even restriction in the calf or ankle, seek treatment early to prevent the condition rather than treating it once it has started. A preventative approach is always best.