The Achilles tendon is a thick, fibrous band of tissue located in the back of the leg which connects the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calf to an insertion point at the calcaneus (heel bone). It’s also the strongest tendon in the body allowing people to push off while walking, running and jumping.

The Achilles tendon bears a tremendous amount of stress and pressure during everyday activities that you may not even notice. Should it become inflamed, swollen, and irritated, it’s called Achilles Tendonitis (often spelt Achilles Tendinitis). If you are dealing with Achilles tendonitis, you may experience pain and stiffness at the back of your heel and ankle, tightness in your calf muscles, or decreased strength or endurance in your calf muscle. These symptoms can be felt during or after exercise; sometimes, pain is felt at the start of exercise, then temporarily improves as the area gets warmed up, but worsens again after exercise is complete. Symptoms get worse with weight-bearing activities and may develop suddenly or gradually.

Our tendons typically respond to gradual increases of stress by adapting and getting stronger. Although, if the amount of stress is too great and/or too sudden, the body is not able to recover and strengthen the tendon quick enough; instead the tendon becomes weaker, and this is when an individual begins to experience pain.

Achilles tendonitis is common in jumping activities such as basketball. Most cases of Achilles tendonitis can be treated with relatively simple, at-home care under your doctor or physiotherapist’s supervision. Many people feel they need to rest the area; however, complete avoidance of activities that stress the tendon can actually make the problem worse, as the tendon will continue to get weaker during a prolonged period of rest. More-serious cases of Achilles tendinitis can lead to tendon tears (ruptures) that may require surgical repair.

Should you require physiotherapy, your physiotherapist will work with you to devise a program of specific exercises to help strengthen the tendon without over-stressing it. Hands-on, manual therapy strategies will help decrease the pain and reduce irritation of the tendon, including mobilization of the calf muscles and foot/ankle joints. Other more specific techniques may be introduced to your program as your pain decreases and mobilization increases.

Your therapist can also help address any underlying contributors such as gait or movement patterns that could be putting extra stress on your Achilles tendon. It can take several months of strengthening to regain full strength in the tendon; however, pain relief is typically felt much sooner than that, and it is usually ok to gradually return to your desired activity as soon as it is tolerable to do so.

If you are not progressing as expected your physiotherapist may refer to a chiropractor, for massage therapy or a consultation with a sports medicine physician. These other options will help aid in your recovery and ensure that all appropriate measures are being taken.

If you are in pain due to Achilles tendonitis be sure to book an appointment with any of our PROTx Services teams at one of our locations online today.