Achilles tendon pain is a condition which can be characterised by inflammation, pain and stiffness. In some cases, the tendon injury can progress from early stage inflammation into degeneration (tendinopathy).
The Achilles tendon is the strongest and largest tendon in the human body. It joins the heel bone to the calf muscle. The main function of the Achilles tendon is to plantarflex or help bend your foot downwards at the ankle.
What might Achilles Tendinopathy feel like?
• Mild to moderate pain and stiffness at the back of the heel.
• Shooting pain, burning pain or intense piercing pain at the back of the heel or the calf muscle.
• Swelling, tenderness or warmth over the Achilles tendon.
• Tightness in the calf muscles.
• Pain usually increases with activity. It is normally more painful with the first few steps in the morning and often more painful the next day after strenuous activity.
Common Causes of Achilles Tendon Pain:
• Overuse- usually occurs when the Achilles tendon is under too much stress; it begins to develop small tears. Runners or those who play sports such as basketball, which involve jumping are at a higher risk.
• Sudden changes in sports or training program.
• Foot mechanics (the way your feet move when you are walking or running) – generally over pronated feet (flat feet) are more likely to develop Achilles tendon pain. A flattened arch will put tighter strain on the Achilles tendon placing it under more ‘mechanical stresses’.
• Calf weakness or tightness.
• Footwear– wearing unsupported shoes, or wearing high heels over a prolonged time
• Arthritis– Achilles tendon pain is more common for those with certain types of arthritis such as, psoriatic arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis.
Things You Can Do For Your Achilles Tendon Pain:
1. Keep active- current research has found that resting a tendon injury will actually decreases the ability of the tendon to manage load and further weakens the Achilles tendon.
2. DO NOT Ignore your pain- pain is the body’s way to tell you that the load or training is too much. Work within your tolerance level, which can be discussed with your treating podiatrist.
3. DO NOT take short cuts with your rehabilitation program!
4. DO NOT stretch your tendon! Stretching of the tendon, adds a compression load which research has proven is further damaging to the tendon.
5. See your podiatrist for a tailored rehabilitation program and thorough assessment.