Achilles tendonitis, also known as Achilles tendinopathy, is a medical condition that is caused by overuse of the lower limb. In this condition, the Achilles tendon (a strong and fibrous band) that connects calf muscle at the back of the lower leg to heel bone becomes swollen. Achilles tendonitis is common among athletes who suddenly increase the intensity of a physical activity. People who run on concrete or who play sport that requires too often jumping such as basketball and volleyball are also affected by this injury. Middle-aged athletes are more likely to develop Achilles tendonitis than younger athletes. Following appropriate exercise habits, decreasing the intensity of any activity that causes pain, wearing low-heeled shoes with proper support, and avoiding running on hard surfaces offer some degree of protection against this condition.
Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include severe ache in the back of the leg after running, stiffness above the heel especially in the morning, and tenderness of the calf muscles after prolonged running. There may also be visible swelling and redness in the area after performing a physical activity. One may also feel difficulty standing up on one toe. The back of the shoe may further irritate the injury, making it very difficult for an athlete to participate in his or her sport activity.
If left untreated, Achilles tendonitis can lead to Achilles tendon rupture, a condition that is characterized by sharp pain and severely impaired walking. In case of pain in the heel or calf muscle after an activity, you should immediately consult a physiotherapy expert for diagnosis and proper treatment for Achilles tendonitis. He or she will perform some physical tests to identify the problem. You may be asked to move your foot in different directions and undergo tests such as muscle function test and palpation to confirm the diagnosis. Once proper diagnosis has been made, an expert at the physiotherapy clinic will suggest a treatment plan for you that will help manage your symptoms and speed your recovery, so that you can return to your active lifestyle.
Minor cases of Achilles tendonitis can be treated with a combination of ice therapy, cold compression therapy, balance exercises, gait training, massage and elevation. NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are also effective in relieving the symptoms of this disorder. For severe cases, treatment options may include manual stretching, use of heel wedges, joint mobilization, and physiotherapy exercises such as gradual stretching exercises and gradual strengthening exercises. Range-of-motion exercises are also very effective in the treatment and rehabilitation of Achilles tendonitis. Wearing elastic bandages around ankle and lower calf while sleeping can reduce morning stiffness and swelling.
Sports massage techniques such as effleurage and transverse mobilization also help relieve the symptoms of Achilles tendonitis and Achilles tendon rupture. These techniques help warm-up the whole of the tendon and the junction where the tendon joins the muscle, thus stimulating blood flow in the area and breaking down scar tissue. As the Achilles tendon doesnt have good blood supply or cell activity, this injury can take 2 to 3 months to heal.