Achilles tendinitis is one of the conditions that can lead to ankle pain. Other injuries include ankle sprains or bursitis.
It affects many athletes and professionals, and it is usually related to an overuse of the ankle. We break it down for you today!
Foot pain, ankle pain: what is Achilles tendinitis?
The Achilles tendon is located behind the ankle, above the heel. It is responsible for propelling the body and is also the largest and strongest tendon in the body. It connects the heel bone to the calf muscles.
Have you ever touched the back of your ankle or heel and felt a sort of elastic band running up your calf? Well, that’s the one!
Achilles tendinitis, or Achilles tendinopathy, is an injury to the tendons of the muscles attaching to the heel. Thetendinitis or tendinopathy is an inflammation or irritation of the tendon.
It is in fact a degeneration of the fibers of the tendon, which happens when the tendon cannot adapt to stress. In other words, the tendon is subjected to such pressure that it can no longer cope with it, hence the onset of pain.
What are the causes of Achilles tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is one of the most common injuries among runners and hikers, or generally in sports that involve running or jumping.
It is usually related to tendon overuse, as can be the case with intensive sports practice.
This affects both seasoned athletes who train a lot, and beginners who put a sudden and unusual effort on their body by increasing their training load too quickly.
A lack of stretching or warm-up, too little rest between physical efforts, or a change in training equipment (shoes) are all factors that can contribute to the development of Achilles tendinitis.
Wearing new sneakers for a major training session before an adaptation period is not recommended.
Please note that other conditions outside of sports can increase the risk of developing tendinitis. Examples include jobs that require a lot of walking; weight gain; or a lack of flexibility in the leg and more specifically in the calf.
What are the symptoms of Achilles tendinitis?
The main symptom of Achilles tendinitis is pain located at the back of the ankle. This pain is usually worse when the individual is in motion (especially when propelling the body forward walking, or standing on tiptoes), and decreases after the activity.
Other symptoms include morning stiffness, which may persist throughout the day, tenderness of the tendon, or difficulty climbing stairs.
In some cases, redness, swelling or puffiness can be seen behind the heel.
Is wearing an orthosis really helpful?
An orthosis can indeed be recommended to reduce and relieve tension on the tendon. They are designed to slightly elevate the heel with pads, thereby reducing tension in the calves and Achilles tendon.
Be careful, however, not to rely on them alone. Orthoses should be used as a complement to physiotherapy or occupational therapy, not as the sole treatment.
Achilles tendon pain: how can you tell if it’s tendinitis?
There is no way to self-diagnose at home. If you experience symptoms similar to Achilles tendinitis, you will need a medical consultation to determine the condition and the extent of your injury.
The best thing to do is to seek medical attention as soon as symptoms appear. Indeed, Achilles tendon degeneration is progressive if the injury is not treated in time. Also, there is a risk of associated tendon rupture when the tendon is weakened.
Achilles tendon pain can also be a sign of other conditions, such as bursitis, so a consultation is all the more recommended.
How to treat Achilles tendinitis quickly? Treatment
Physiotherapy is used to treat Achilles tendinitis. In the first session, your physiotherapist will evaluate your injury to determine its severity and to develop a treatment plan and specific care for your condition.
Implementing the PEACE & LOVE process, an acronym developed by the Runner’s Clinic, is recommended. This process starts with pain management and relief through reduced activity, and then allows a gradual return to activity, depending on the patient’s tolerance.
Partial rest is recommended to reduce the stress on the tendon. Your therapist will make sure to maintain joint mobility without aggravating the injury. You may be asked to do calf and ankle stretching exercises.
Then, your physiotherapist will move on to the strengthening phase, which includes personalized exercises.
Each treatment plan varies from patient to patient. It is tailored to each patient’s irritability and tolerance.
If you are currently suffering from Achilles tendon pain, make an appointment directly with one of our physiotherapists.