Achilles Tendinitis is a common overuse injury that occurs when the large tendon that runs down the back of the lower leg becomes irritated or inflamed. It is caused by repetitive or intense strain on the tendon. This tendon is used when walking, jumping, and running. Achilles tendinitis commonly occurs in runners who have suddenly increased the intensity or duration of their runs. It is also common in individuals who occasionally play sports.
Individuals who have Achilles tendinitis may experience tenderness or stiffness specifically in the morning. This tenderness usually improves with mild activity. Achilles tendinitis typically begins as a mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel after running or performing other sports activities. Episodes of more severe pain may occur after prolonged running, stair climbing, or sprinting.
While it may not be possible to prevent Achilles tendinitis, individuals can take measures to reduce the risk by following these guidelines:
1- Wear appropriate footwear when exercising. Make sure to wear shoes that provide adequate cushioning for the heel, as well as a firm arch support. This will help to reduce tension on the Achilles tendon.
2- Be mindful of activities. Avoid activities that place excessive tension on the Achilles tendon such as running uphill.
3- Stretch often. Make sure to stretch the calf muscles and Achilles tendon multiple times a day. Stretching should be performed first thing in the morning, and before and after exercising.
4- Strength training. Strong calf muscles are essential in enabling the Achilles tendon to tolerate stresses placed on it during activity and exercises.
5- Gradually increase activity. Begin activity slowly then gradually increase the duration and intensity of training.
Treatment and management of Achilles tendinitis with physical therapy is beneficial by optimizing biomechanics and teaching controlled tendon loading exercises by implementing isometric, isotonic, and energy storage loading exercises. Physical therapists will also provide manual therapy techniques such as dry needling, taping, and ankle mobilization to further treat Achilles tendinitis so individuals can safely return to enjoying their daily activities.