The Achilles tendon is a band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone of the foot. It is the largest tendon in the human body and is essential for a range of movements and activities.
Due to its regular use and the intense pressures it undergoes during activity, overuse injuries in this region are common, particularly amongst people who take part in sports. Painful symptoms and conditions that arise from overuse or degeneration of the Achilles tendon are broadly known as Achilles Tendonitis.
Achilles tendonitis symptoms:
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis typically start as an ache around the calf or above the heel after activities, such as running or football. This may be a more serious acute pain following particularly strenuous activity. The pain can be persistent and is often characterised by its presence first thing in the morning, but with gradual dissipation after movement.
Achilles tendonitis causes:
Achilles Tendonitis results from a slow degeneration of the tendon following use. This means there is no particular action or movement that causes it and could simply be avoided, rather it is important to ease into activity, use good shoes/trainers, stretch and limit sharp and sudden movements.
Achilles tendon rupture:
Achilles Tendonitis is often easily confused with an Achilles Rupture or Tear, where the tendon is either partially or fully torn. The symptoms are very similar and differ mostly in terms of scale. A rupture is often more painful and prolonged; people often hear a ‘pop’ when the injury occurs, which can be a helpful suggestion as to the cause of symptoms.
How to treat Achilles tendonitis:
Achilles Tendonitis is usually resolvable with self-care. However, if the problem frequently recurs or the symptoms are unbearable, even with over-the-counter pain-relief, it is advisable to seek a specialist opinion.
Physiotherapy with guided rehabilitative strengthening and stretching is a helpful initial step to resolving the complaint. However, if the tendon is torn or the condition doesn’t resolve with available conservative treatments, then surgery may be recommended as a final treatment option.
Achilles Tendon Stretching and Strengthening:
It is important that your rehabilitation is guided so as to avoid potentially causing more damage to the tendon. However, the general format would include:
- Calf stretches with the knee both straight and bent can ease your body into the regime
- Sitting heel raises
- Standing heel raises
- Heel raises on a step
The regime will most likely be repeated several times per day, as per your physiotherapist or Doctors instructions.
Achilles tendonitis recovery time:
Recovery from Achilles Tendonitis can take considerable time and depends largely on when the issue is first diagnosed. Once work has been started to ease the symptoms and rehabilitate this region of the body, it will usually take about 12 weeks for symptoms to improve.
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