An Achilles tendon injury (tendinopathy) is one of the more common causes of pain felt behind the heel and up the back of the ankle when walking or running. While Achilles tendinopathy affects both active and inactive individuals, it is most common in active individuals; 24% of athletes develop the condition. An estimated 50% of runners will experience Achilles pain in their running careers. In all individuals, Achilles tendinopathy can result in a limited ability participate in recreational and daily activities.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
Achilles tendinopathy is an irritation of the Achilles tendon, a thick band of tissue along the back of the lower leg that connects the calf muscles to the heel. Achilles tendinopathy results when the demand placed on the Achilles tendon is greater than its ability. This can occur after an acute injury or after repetitive irritation. Most often, Achilles tendon pain is the result of repetitive trauma to the tendon. This repetitive strain can result in chronic Achilles tendinopathy, which is a gradual breakdown of the tissue and can be effectively treated with physical therapy.
The severity of acute injuries is graded based on the amount of damage to the tendon (grade I-III).
Achilles tendinopathy may result from a combination of several different variables, including:
- Ankle stiffness
- Calf tightness
- Calf weakness
- Abnormal foot structure
- Abnormal foot mechanics
- Improper footwear
- Change in an exercise routine or sport activity
The most common area to feel tenderness is just above the heel, although it may also be present where the tendon meets the heel.
With Achilles tendinopathy, you may experience: tenderness in the heel or higher up in the achilles tendon, tightness in the ankle, tightness in the calf, swelling in the back of the ankle, pain in the back of the heel, pain and stiffness with walking, worst with the first several steps.
How can it be prevented?
Maintaining appropriate lower extremity strength, flexibility and ankle mobility and paying particular attention to your exercise routine—especially changes in an exercise surface, the volume of exercises performed, or your footwear are the best methods for preventing Achilles injuries. If you’ve been struggling with heel pain that won’t let up let’s get it taken care of before it results in tear and the need for surgical intervention.
Precision Physical Therapy, LLC
Dr. Gregory Shea of Precision PT