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Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles Tendonitis

What is Achilles Tendonitis?

Tendonitis (also spelled tendinitis) is the irritation or inflammation of the tendons (thick fibrous bands of tissues that attach muscles to bones).

Think of a tendon like an elastic band that stretches when you move. Tendons also help absorb some of the shocks from your muscles when you move.

The Achilles tendon serves as a powerful connection between the calf muscle and heel bone.

Achilles tendonitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon and is caused by a sudden injury to the tendon, resulting in pain, redness and swelling.

Causes | Symptoms | Treatment | Prevention

What Causes Achilles Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis is typically caused by a sudden injury to the Achilles tendon, often from activities such as running, soccer, or basketball.

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of incurring Achilles tendonitis include:

  • Repetitive, high-impact use of your feet, whether occupational or recreational
  • Excessive force, such as landing a jump the wrong way or sudden stop and go movements, common among athletes
  • Past Achilles tendon injuries
  • Weak calf muscles
  • Improper technique or training in sports, including insufficient warm-ups and stretching
  • Improper gait or walking patterns

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis?

Often sharp in nature, Achilles tendon pain can be sudden or increase gradually depending on the degree of the injury. 

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Throbbing or burning sensation that won’t go away
  • Pain directly over the Achilles tendon
  • Swelling which often resides in the calf muscle and ankle
  • Pain that is worse with movement such as going down stairs, walking, running, or any movement where you are coming up on your toes
  • A popping sound
  • Decreased range of motion

Concerned about symptoms of Achilles tendonitis? Find a physiotherapist near you and book an assessment today.

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How is Achilles Tendonitis Treated?

Treatments for Achilles tendonitis can include:

  • At-home treatment such as:
    • Applying ice packs for 10-15 minutes, 3-4 times a day, typically for the first 48 hours or until swelling goes down
    • Resting your foot
    • Avoiding activities that cause pain or put stress on your foot
    • Anti-inflammatory painkillers such as Advil or Aleve to reduce pain and swelling
  • Physiotherapy
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), either prescribed, or over-the-counter, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Surgery – if surgery is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation.

Physiotherapy for Achilles Tendonitis

Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain and swelling, regaining strength, increasing mobility and function, and preventing recurrence. 

At pt Health, you’ll receive a thorough assessment which addresses the source of your problem.

Physiotherapy treatment plans for Achilles tendonitis can take anywhere from eight to twelve weeks. While that may seem lengthy, it is designed into phases which help you progress toward a safe recovery.

If you jump back into exercise too quickly following your injury, it is likely you will have to start the recovery process all over again.

Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy can include:

  • Functional retraining and activity modification including gait exercises
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises, including calf strengthening exercises
  • Range of motion and flexibility exercises
  • Balance and control exercises 
  • Orthotics if there is a gait issue
  • Taping
  • Personalized exercise plan that you can do at home to encourage continuous improvement and progress
  • Preventative strategies to help you manage lifestyle, work, and other risk factors
  • Patient education including return to work or sport recommendations
  • Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as: 

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Can Achilles Tendonitis Go Away on Its Own?

Yes, if successfully treated at home, a mild case of Achilles tendonitis can get better on its own. 

However, if not treated correctly, tendonitis can turn into tendonosis, a chronic, recurring condition that happens as a result of overuse, repetitive strain, repeated injuries to the same area, or an injury that hasn’t healed properly.

Can You Prevent Achilles Tendonitis?

If you have an increased risk for Achilles tendonitis (you play sports, or your job involves repetitive movements), speak to a physiotherapist about the best exercises for your activities.

Other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of incurring Achilles tendonitis include:

  • Warming up and stretching before exercise
  • Cooling down and stretching after exercise
  • Practicing proper technique in sport including stretching and strengthening exercises
  • Starting a new exercise or fitness program slowly, and gradually increasing your training
  • Practicing good posture
  • Taking regular breaks from activities that involve repetitive movements
  • Wearing orthotics and properly supportive shoes for your activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet (avoiding processed and refined foods and sugar)

Book a Physiotherapist Consult for Achilles Tendonitis Today

Concerned about symptoms of Achilles tendonitis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.

Find a clinic button that links to pt Health's find a clinic page