Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is found in the back of the ankle, and is in fact the largest tendon in the human body. The purpose of the tendon is to lift the heel. Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation of this tendon which causes the associated discomfort and pain. Many athletes can suffer from Achilles tendonitis: runners, basketball players, footballers, volleyball players etc.

What causes Achilles tendonitis?

As with any form of tendonitis, the inflammation is usually brought on by overuse of the tendon in question. In the case of Achilles tendonitis, the repetition of such activities as jumping (as in basketball for instance) can cause the tendon to be pulled slightly out of place, which causes pain and inflammation. The Achilles tendon can not only become inflamed, but in severe injuries can partially or fully tear, which can be extremely painful.

What are the symptoms of Achilles tendonitis?

  • Pain at the back of the heel/ankle
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Restricted movement
  • In the event of a tear of the tendon, the pain may be sudden and severe

How is Achilles tendonitis treated?

As with many sports injuries, the application of ice packs several times a day to the affected area can reduce discomfort and assist with healing. It is extremely important to reduce physical activity to an absolute minimum in order to allow the injury to heal quickly. Those who suffer from the injury can take anti-inflammatory medication to relieve discomfort and reduce swelling.

How do I begin rehabilitation of the heel and tendon?

When the pain has lessened in the heel and you feel you are able to do so without straining the tendon again, begin gentle exercises to stretch the tendon. This ensures that the tendon doesn’t heal in a shortened state, causing damage when you begin exercising again. Conduct simple toe raise exercises – stand on tiptoe for around ten seconds, then lower your heels until they are flat on the floor. Gently work up to completing three sets of these, and as the injury improves, raise your self on one foot at a time.

What about when the tendon has healed?

When the tendon has fully healed, you can undertake exercises such as the heel drop. Standing with the front of your feet on a raised surface, with the rear of your foot and heel protruding back over the edge, gently lower the heel to below the level of your toes. (You can do this quite easily on a step). When you feel that the back of your calf is stretched, hold this position for around 10 seconds before raising your heel back to a level with your toes. Repeat this movement until the calf feels tired.

What happens if I don’t address the problem of Achilles Tendonitis?

Athletes who ignore or disregard minor discomfort due to mild Achilles tendonitis and continue to train and exercise can end up causing much more significant damage to the tendon. It is extremely important for the athlete to rest the tendon and allow it to heal in order to prevent chronic symptoms from arising in the future.

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