Achilles tendinopathy is a condition in which the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed and painful. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, so it plays an important role in walking and running. Achilles tendinopathy can lead to serious problems with your foot if it's not treated appropriately. This article will discuss what causes Achilles tendinopathy, who might be at risk for getting this injury, and how physical therapy can help treat it.
What is Achilles Tendinopathy?
Achilles tendinopathy is a degenerative condition that occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed and irritated. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone, so when it's inflamed or injured, it can cause pain in your heel.
This type of injury typically affects athletes who participate in activities that require frequent running or jumping--such as basketball players and sprinters--and can also occur after an increase in training mileage without adequate rest between workouts. In some cases, Achilles tendinopathy develops slowly over time due to repetitive stress on the tendon during activity; this type of development may be referred to as chronic tendinopathy.
Who is Most Likely to Get Achilles Tendinopathy?
Achilles tendinopathy is common in people who participate in sports that involve running, jumping or sudden stops. This includes soccer players and football players. It can also affect dancers, skaters and gymnasts.
People who are overweight have a higher risk of developing Achilles tendinopathy because extra weight puts more pressure on the tendon and causes it to stretch out over time.
If you have a family history of Achilles tendinopathy or if you were born with high arches (or flat feet) then your chances of developing this condition increase as well.
What Causes Achilles Tendinopathy?
Achilles tendinopathy is usually caused by overuse of the tendon. This can be due to poor running technique, running shoes that are too old or worn out, and weak calf muscles. Other factors include genetics, age (older runners are more likely to develop this condition), or having flat feet or high arches in your foot.
What are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendinopathy?
Achilles tendinopathy is characterized by pain in the Achilles tendon, which is located at the back of your ankle. This tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone and helps you push off when you walk or run.
Achilles tendinopathy can also cause pain in other parts of your leg:
Pain at the back of your heel (plantar) when walking or running
Pain when putting on shoes
Pain when standing on tiptoe or bending over
If you have Achilles tendinopathy, you may notice that these symptoms are worse first thing in the morning or after sitting for long periods during the day. You may also experience pain while walking or running, especially on uneven surfaces. Your symptoms will usually improve within a few days if you rest and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.
How is Achilles Tendinopathy Diagnosed?
A physical exam will be performed to assess the patient's entire lower leg and foot, including the Achilles tendon. This can include:
Observing the patient walking or running on a treadmill.
Palpating (feeling) the area around your heel for swelling and tenderness.
Examining your feet for signs of abnormalities such as bunions or hammertoes.
X-rays may also be taken to rule out other causes of pain in this area, such as arthritis or stress fractures in bones below your heel bone (calcaneus). An MRI scan is another way to visualize soft tissue injuries like tendinopathy that are not visible on x-ray images alone.
What are the Treatment Options for Achilles Tendinopathy?
The treatment plan for Achilles tendinopathy will vary depending on the severity of your condition. If you are an athlete, your doctor may recommend rest and physical therapy to allow your tendon to heal. You may also be given a brace or ankle strap to help stabilize your foot while running or jumping.
Stretching exercises can help prevent future instances of tendinopathy by increasing flexibility in the calf muscles that surround the Achilles tendon. Your therapist will show you how to perform these stretches correctly at home before instructing you on how often they should be performed (usually two times per day).
Ice packs applied directly over an inflamed area can provide temporary pain relief as well as reduce swelling around injured tissue sites by constricting blood vessels near these areas.
If the injury is severe, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help manage pain and swelling. In more serious cases where you are unable to walk, surgery may be required.
Physical Therapy for the Treatment of Achilles Tendinopathy
Physical therapy is a great way to relieve pain, improve mobility and regain strength, range of motion and balance. It can also help you regain your ability to run and jump.
Physical therapy involves exercises that target different areas of the body. These exercises are done at home or in a clinic under the supervision of a physical therapist who will guide you through each step until you're able to perform them correctly on your own. A typical treatment plan may include:
Stretching the calf muscles and/or massage and myofascial release.
Strengthening the lower leg by progressing from simple to more complex exercises, eventually practicing sport specific tasks if required
Balancing exercises such as standing on foam pads while doing squats or balance boards
Achilles tendinopathy is a condition that can cause pain in the heel and ankle area. It is caused by stress on the Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. The most common symptom of this condition is pain with activity such as walking or running, but it may also affect how well you sleep at night. If left untreated, Achilles tendinopathy may lead to other problems such as an Achilles rupture or chronic inflammation called tenosynovitis