Achilles tendinopathy is a very common soft tissue injury normally caused as a result of overuse. It effects both athletes and non-athletes although it is more prevalent in those who do participate in sports or regular exercise. The Achilles tendon is a thin band of tissue that connects your calf complex to your foot bone, the tendon is used when you walk, run, jump or rise onto your toes. The structure of the Achilles tendon makes it more susceptible to injury as it is used in almost all movements in day to day activities and the tendon naturally weakens with age.
Those suffering with an Achilles tendon issue typically present with initial pain as a mild aching the back of the lower leg above the heel. This pain may be during or after exercise and longer episodes of pain may start to occur after longer periods of running, jumping, sprinting or climbing stairs. In addition, you may start to notice tenderness and stiffness local to the area of pain, most often this is noticed in the morning and will ease throughout the day with mild activity/exercise.
Most common symptoms:
- Morning stiffness
- Tenderness over the Achilles tendon
- Variable pain based on activity
There are number of things you can do to try and decrease the risk of an Achilles injury. These include:
Gender – Achilles injuries tend to occur more in the male population
Age – the older you get the more chance of an Achilles injury
Physical change – a naturally flat foot will put increased strain through the Achilles tendon, as well as tension in the calf complex and obesity
Training – the most common cause of Achilles injury is training too much too soon and not gradually progressing exercise over a number of weeks. The strain placed on the Achilles is too great and therefore damage occurs.
Medical conditions – there are many medical conditions that can affect the likeliness of an Achilles injury. E.g high blood pressure, psoriasis.
Treatment and Prevention
While it may not be possible to prevent Achilles tendinopathy, you can take measures to reduce the risk.
- If you feel you may have injured your leg you should ice immediately after and for the next 24 hours for 15 minutes at a time maximum, several times throughout the day.
- Shoes are very important in the health of our Achilles and calf complex. They should have a firm arch support with good cushioning to reduce the strain and tension put on the tendon. Replace worn out shoes as often as you need to.
- Ensuring that your calf complex is very strong will help the calf and Achilles handle the stresses and tension of exercises.
- Take the time to warm up and stretch properly before each session. Flexibility in the lower limb is important in preventing further or reoccurring injury to the Achilles.
If you feel you may be suffering with an Achilles tendon issue it is recommended that you book a consultation as in some case Achilles tendinopathy if left untreated can cause you to be inactive in your sport for a longer period of time before seeing an improvement in your symptoms.