Achilles Tendinopathy: What Is It?

By Paul on 2/02/2016

Achilles Tendinopathy refers to the degeneration of the tissue making up the Achilles tendon, with the loss of normal fibre structure.

Achilles Tendinopathy

What is it?

Achilles Tendinopathy refers to the degeneration of the tissue making up the Achilles tendon, with the loss of normal fibre structure.

It can present as an acute condition, meaning it occurs over a period of a few days, following an increase in training, or chronic, which occurs over a longer period of time. In addition to being either chronic or acute, the condition can also be either at the attachment point to the heel or in the mid-portion of the tendon (typically around 4cm above the heel). Healing of the achilles tendon is often slow, due to its poor blood supply.

What causes it?

An Achilles Tendinopathy is typically an overuse injury. Too much too soon is the basic cause of overuse injuries, however below are some other factors that can contribute to developing the condition:

  • Increase in the frequency and intensity of activity
  • Reduced recovery time between exercise and activities
  • A change of footwear, or in the surface that you train on
  • Weak calf muscles
  • A decreased range in motion at the ankle joint, often caused by tight calf muscles
  • Type of activity and exercise done, e.g. Running up hills will stretch the Achilles tendon more than normal on every stride. This causes the tendon to fatigue quicker, which leaves it more prone to injury.
  • If your feet pronate or roll inwards when running. This can increase the stress on the tendon through twisting and ‘abnormal’ strain.
  • When heels are worn regularly they can cause the Achilles tendon to shorten, then when flat shoes are worn for exercise the tendon has to stretch further than normal under increased stress causing the likelihood of injury to be higher.

How is it treated?

 

There are a number of things that can be used to treat Achilles Tendinopathies:

  • rest and cold therapies to reduce any associated swelling or inflammation
  • wearing a heel raise to reduce the strain on the tendon
  • taking a prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine to releive any associated inflammation
  • taping of the ankle and foot
  • proper diagnosis of foot function addressed  with orthotics to address abnormal function
  • ultrasound treatment
  • surgery is sometime indicated if conservative treatments fail.

WARNING: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional podiatric advice. Treatment will vary between individuals depending upon your diagnosis and presenting complaint. An accurate diagnosis can only be made following personal consultation with a Podiatrist.