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Achilles Tendinopathy

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body. It connects your calf muscles to your heel and is that hard cord-like structure at the back of your ankle. Anytime you walk, run, jump and stand on tip toes, you are using your Achilles tendon. As your calf muscles contract, it tensions the tendon to move your foot – so it does a lot of work! Sometimes all that work can become too much strain on the tendon and you can develop damage. 

Achilles tendinopathy usually occurs from a gradual wear and tear of the tendon due to overuse or ageing. Although you may feel the pain has developed suddenly, it is likely that the tendon has been weakening over time from repetitive actions you perform in your job, sport or just regular daily activities. 

The most common causes include:

  • Overuse or over-training
  • Sudden change in the intensity or duration of your training/sports
  • Exercising on hard or uneven surfaces
  • Poor foot biomechanics or tight calf muscles
  • Wearing unsupportive footwear, particularly if it has low-set heels

Achilles tendinopathy is relatively common and can affect both active and inactive people, although participating in running-based activity or stop-start sports such as tennis, basketball and soccer, can increase your risk. Other risk factors include being over the age of 30, above average body weight, chronic health issues such as diabetes and certain medications.

Symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy vary, but commonly include:

  • Stiffness around the back of the ankle area, especially in the morning or after sitting for longer periods, which usually eases after a few minutes of walking, but may persist for longer
  • Painful to touch – if the injury is affecting the mid-part of the tendon(mid-portion Achilles tendinopathy) there may be an obvious, tender lump within the tendon; if the injury has occurred where the tendon attaches to the bone(insertional Achilles tendinopathy) there may be a painful spur on the back of the heel
  • Swelling/thickening may occur around the tendon

If you think you may have Achilles tendinopathy, seeing a podiatrist can help not only manage your current symptoms, but also reduce the likelihood of re-injury in the future. We can thoroughly assess the biomechanical function of your feet and legs and develop a tailored treatment plan based on your results and specific goals. 

Frequent treatment methods include:

  • Exercises to increase the load-capacity of the tendon
  • Strapping
  • Footwear changes or modifications
  • Custom-made foot orthotics
  • Shockwave therapy
  • Foot mobilization techniques 

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