What Can I do to Treat My Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is an irritation of the Achilles tendon. Achilles tendon pain is one of the most common types of pain felt behind the heel and up the back of the ankle when walking or running. Although Achilles tendinitis affects both active and inactive individuals, 24% of athletes develop the condition, and an estimated 50% of runners will experience Achilles tendon pain in their running careers. In all individuals, Achilles tendinitis can result in a limited ability to walk, climb stairs, or participate in recreational activities. Physical therapists help people with Achilles tendinitis reduce pain in the affected area, and restore strength, flexibility, and mobility to the injured tendon and eliminate swelling when present.
Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation.
On this page I will outline each of these topics
- What Is Achilles Tendinitis?
- How Does Achilles Tendinitis Feel?
- How Is Achilles Tendinitis Diagnosed?
- How Can a Physical Therapist Help with Achilles Tendinitis?
- Can Achilles Tendinitis Be Prevented?
- What Kind of Physical Therapist Do I Need?
What Is Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis 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. The term “tendinitis” refers to any problem with a tendon, either short- or long-term. The Achilles tendon transmits force from the calf muscles down to the foot when a person pushes the foot off the ground (eg, runs or jumps), and helps control the position of the ankle when the foot touches back down on the ground (eg, lands). Achilles tendinitis results when the demand placed on the Achilles tendon is greater than its ability to function. The condition can occur after a single incident (acute injury) or after repetitive irritation or “microtrauma” (chronic injury). Most often, Achilles tendon pain is the result of repetitive trauma to the tendon that can result in chronic Achilles and is most often treated with physical therapy. Achilles tendinitis is linked to several different factors, including, calf muscle tightness, calf muscle weakness, abnormal foot structure, abnormal foot mechanics, improper footwear, a change in an exercise routine or sport activity, and obesity. Pain can be present at any point along the tendon although it may also be present where the tendon meets the heel (known as insertional Achilles tendinitis).
How Does Achilles Tendinitis Feel?
With Achilles tendinitis, you may experience tenderness in the heel or higher up in the Achilles tendon with manually applied pressure, pain and stiffness with walking, at its worst with the first several steps, tightness in the calf, swelling in the back of the ankle.
How Is Achilles Tendinitis Diagnosed?
Your physical therapist will review your medical history and complete a thorough examination of your heel, ankle, and calf. Your physical therapist will assess your foot posture, strength, flexibility, and movement. This process may include watching you stand in a relaxed stance, walk, squat, step onto a stair, or do a heel raise. The motion and strength in other parts of your leg also will be assessed. Your physical therapist may also ask questions regarding your daily activities, exercise regimens, and footwear, to identify other contributing factors to your condition. Imaging techniques, such as X-ray or MRI, are often not needed to diagnose Achilles tendinitis. Although it is unlikely that your condition will ultimately require surgery, your physical therapist will consult with other medical professionals, such as an orthopedist, to determine the best plan of treatment for your specific condition if it does not respond to conservative care.
How Can a Physical Therapist Help to Treat Achilles Tendinitis?
Physical therapy promotes recovery from Achilles tendinitis by addressing issues such as pain or swelling of the affected area, and any lack of strength, flexibility, or body control. You and your physical therapist will work together to develop an individualized treatment program to help you achieve your specific goals in the safest and most effective way possible. Your treatment may include education on predisposing or aggravating factors, pain management including the use of heat and ice as well as over the counter medications, manual treatments, range of motion and stretching exercises, and strength training exercises.
Can Achilles Tendinitis Be Prevented?
Maintaining appropriate lower-extremity mobility and muscular strength, and paying particular attention to your exercise routine are the best methods for preventing Achilles tendinitis. When you have experienced an injury, your physical therapist will help guide you through a process that will progressively reintegrate more demanding activities into your routine without aggravating your Achilles tendon. Keep in mind that returning to high-level activities too soon after injury can lead to another episode of pain.
What Kind of Physical Therapist Do I Need?
All physical therapists are prepared through education and experience to treat Achilles tendinitis however we have physical therapists who are board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist and have extensive training in all areas of orthopedics and sports physical therapy including Achilles tendinitis. This ensures that your physical therapist has advanced knowledge, experience, and skills that may apply to your condition.