Achilles Tendonitis – The Scourge Of The Athlete

Painful swelling in the Achilles tendon, which runs down behind the ankle and attaches on the back of the heel bone, can be a debilitating problem for any athlete or active person. Symptoms usually come on over a prolonged period of time, and often the pain is most severe when first getting out of bed in the morning. Any sports, which involve running or jumping can cause Achilles tendonitis, although it may also occur through simple fitness walking, or the day-to-day activities of daily living. In chronic cases, which have gone on for a long period of time, there may be a firm, egg-shaped swelling in the tendon which is tender to squeeze.

If you have Achilles tendonitis, don’t despair. The majority of cases will respond well to:

  • Rest from sporting activities, or any activity which causes pain.
  • Heat and stretching exercises before any activities involving walking or running
  • Ice and stretching exercises after activities.
  • A heel lift in the shoes, or the use of shoes with thicker or higher heels. This, however, is only really successful when walking as most of the force on the Achilles tendon which develops when we run occurs when the heel lifts off the ground.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Correcting any abnormal foot position. Occasionally a foot which rolls in excessively can contribute to Achilles tendonitis by creating an additional ‘twist’, or torque, in the tendon. Orthoses or more supportive footwear may help in these cases.
  • Strengthening exercises for the calf muscles and tendons (‘eccentric loading’)

More detailed advice about the treatment of Achilles tendonitis can be provided by a Podiatrist or Physiotherapist. Finally, although most cases settle with the treatment outlined above, progress is usually slow and patience is required by the patient!