This condition, known as Achilles tendonitis, tendinopathy, or tendonosis, is relatively common and can affect individuals of any age. The Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body, plays a crucial role in various activities such as walking, running, jumping, standing, climbing, and overall mobility. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
Achilles pain is often experienced by athletes due to repetitive strain and degeneration, but it is important to note that everyone, not just athletes, should take care of this tendon. The biomechanical characteristics of Achilles pain are similar to those of Plantar Fasciitis, as excessive pronation or supination of the foot can put strain on the heel. If this strain persists, it can lead to tearing, inflammation, and swelling.
Several factors can contribute to Achilles pain. Increased and sudden intensity of exercise activity can be a cause, especially when coupled with tight calf muscles. Additionally, the presence of bone spurs, where extra bone growth occurs at the heel, can lead to inflammation and pain when they rub against the tendon. Biomechanical anomalies, such as having one leg longer than the other, can also create additional stress on the longer leg and its Achilles tendon.
If you are dealing with Achilles tendonitis, you might experience the following symptoms:
Inflammation or irritation along the back of your leg, extending to your heel.
Morning pain and stiffness specifically in the Achilles tendon.
Pain in the tendon or heel that intensifies during physical activity.
Severe pain following exercise, particularly noticeable the next day.
Thickening of the tendon accompanied by pain.
Presence of bone spurs, characterized by extra bone growth at the heel, also referred to as insertional tendonitis.
Persistent swelling that worsens throughout the day and with increased activity.
To confirm Achilles problems, book a full biomechanical assessment, diagnostic and treatment program. In this situation you may also be sent for an X-ray, ultrasound and if needed an MRI.
Dr Abbie Najjarine, principal at Dr. Abbie Clinics, uses engineering principals to assess the body. Like any materials, tendons have a yield point. He has applied this knowledge to help patients understand the body’s reaction to the activities we tend to inflict on it, and how this applies to a particular individual’s unique body structure and situation.
If left untreated Achilles problems can become severely debilitating.
Most common treatments are non-surgical.
This could be one or a combination of the following:
- Stop doing your exercise regime of strenuous activity and rest as much as possible.
- Ice the area of pain as required during the day, you can use an ice pack or other method for this, as long as this is done for up to 20 minutes until the skin becomes numb
- Anti-inflammatory medication like Voltaren or ibuprofen help reduce swelling and pain
- Special exercises designed to strengthen and stretch calf muscles to reduce the stress on the Achilles tendon
- Foot mobilisation will help loosen up any tight areas or fix potentially dislocated joints
- Shockwave therapy, where high-energy shockwave impulses are designed to aid the healing process of the damaged area
- CMO help support the foot and take strain off the Achilles tendon and reduce irritation at the back of shoes
- Prolotherapy can help remove adhesions in the area of pain
- A last resort would be Cortisone injections, although there is risk of tearing the tendon with this procedure.