What is Achilles Tendinitis?
The Achilles tendon is the large tendon at the back of the ankle. It connects the large calf muscles (Gastrocnemius and Soleus) to the heal bone (calcaneus). This tendon can become inflamed through overuse as well as a number of contributory factors.
It is estimated that 11% of all running injuries can be due to Achilles tendinitis. The Achilles tendon has a poor blood supply which is why it is slow to heal.
Achilles tendinitis can be acute or chronic. Acute achilles tendinitis will happen as a result of overuse or training too much, too soon especially on hard surfaces or up hills.
If your feet roll in when you run or overpronate then this can increase the strain on the Achilles tendon because the tendon is twisted as the foot rolls in.
If the warning signs of Achilles tendinitis are ignored or it is not allowed to heal properly then the injury can become chronic. Chronic Achilles tendinitis is a difficult condition to treat. The pains experienced during the acute phase of the injury tend to disappear after a warm up but return when training has stopped. Eventually the injury gets worse and worse until it is impossible to run.
The symptoms for acute inflammation of the Achilles tendon are:
* Pain on the tendon during exercise.
* Swelling over the Achilles tendon.
* Redness over the skin.
* You can sometimes feel a creaking when you press your fingers into the tendon and move the foot.
Symptoms for chronic Achilles tendinitis are similar to those of acute tendinitis as well as:
* Pain and stiffness in the Achilles tendon especially in the morning.
* Pain in the tendon when walking especially up hill or up stairs.
* Chronic tendinitis differs from acute tendinitis in that it is more of a long term persistent problem.
What can the athlete do?
* Rest and apply cold therapy or ice (not directly onto the skin).
* Wear a heel pad to raise the heel and take some of the strain off the achilles tendon.
* See a sports injury professional who can advise on treatment and rehabilitation.
What can a Sports Injury Therapist or Doctor do?
- Prescribe anti-inflammatory medication.
- Identify the causes and prescribe orthotics or a change in training methods.
- Tape the back of the leg to support the tendon.
- Apply a plaster cast if it is really bad.
- Use ultrasound treatment.
- Apply sports massage techniques.
- Prescribe a rehabilitation programme.
- Some might give a steroid injection however an injection directly into the tendon is not recommended. Some specialists believe this can increase the risk of a total rupture.
- Scan with an MRI or Ultrasound - see latest research for more info.
If you look after this injury early enough you should make a good recovery. It is important you rehabilitate the tendon properly after it has recovered or the injury will return. If you ignore the early warning signs and do not look after this injury then it may become chronic which is very difficult to treat.