Achilles tendinopathy – How to manage it effectively

By February 10, 2016Injury & Treatment Advice
Achilles tendinopathy – How to manage it effectively

Achilles tendinopathy is a health condition which causes swelling, pain, weakness and stiffness in Achilles tendon, which joins the heel bone to the calf muscles. According to medical practitioners, this condition is usually caused by tiny injuries suffered repeatedly to the Achilles tendon.

There are different reasons that can cause these injuries especially overuse of the tendon, which is very common among runners. Some treatment options that help in managing Achilles tendinopathy include ice packs, rest, special exercises (that help to strengthen and stretch the Achilles tendon) and the use of painkillers to control the pain.

What causes Achilles tendinopathy?

When the Achilles tendon suffers some damage over time and the injuries continue to build up, Achilles tendinopathy can easily develop.

Tiny injuries can be sustained to the Achilles tendon as a result of many things especially when the Achilles tendon is overused. People who tend to run regularly experience this problem as well as people who play other sports, which involve jumping such as tennis and dancing.

In addition, the condition can be caused by exercising and training while wearing inappropriate footwear and also using poor exercising or training techniques when running.

Achilles tendinopathy can also result when you change your training program suddenly without giving your body a chance to adjust. This can, for instance, result by increasing how often you go for training and increasing your training intensity.

In addition, exercising or training on sloped or hard surfaces can also increase the risk of getting the condition, which is also the same with people who have a high arched foot. Poor flexibility of the foot, for instance, having underdeveloped or tight hamstring or thigh muscles can likewise increase the likelihood of getting this condition.

People with certain kinds of arthritis like psoriatic or ankylosing spondylitis are also at a high risk of getting Achilles tendinopathy as well.

Treatment options for Achilles tendinopathy

Unfortunately, there are several treatments that can truly help in containing Achilles tendinopathy. It is important that you start with conservative treatments first and then consider surgery if these treatments are not effective.

Rest: If you engage in sporting activities a lot, it is essential that you take some time off and rest. Most importantly, you should avoid engaging in high impact sports or activities like running as they can worsen the injuries to your Achilles tendon, you can then restart the exercises later on depending on how the pain is improving. However, don’t prolong the complete rest as it can worsen the injury and you should consult your physical therapist on exactly when you should resume training and exercising.

Painkillers: Some painkillers like ibuprofen or paracetamol can help in reliving the pain associated with Achilles tendinopathy. However, these medications are not good for prolonged use as they can have some side-effects. In fact, if used for a long time, they can make the tendon unable to heal completely. Such drugs can also mask the symptoms of this condition thus delaying healing. Some serious side-effects of these medications include bleeding of the stomach and pain.

Ice treatment: Use of ice packs can really help in controlling the pain and minimizing the swelling especially when Achilles tendinopathy is in its early stages. You should apply an ice pack for between 10 and 30 minutes as less than this can have very little effect. Applying the ice excessively can lead to skin damage. Putting the ice on the skin directly can result in ice burn and it is best that you wrap the ice with a towel or plastic bag. The cold that results from the ice pack reduces flow of blood to the injured tendons and this limits inflammation and pain.

Orthotics: It is a great idea that you consult an experienced orthotics specialist so that you can get recommendations on the best footwear to wear and how to use special inserts for your shoes to help lift your heel. Such inserts can go a long way in terms of the management of Achilles tendinopathy by reducing the symptoms and pain.

Achilles tendon exercises: There are some simple exercises that can help to strengthen and stretch your Achilles tendon. It is important that you do such exercises on a daily basis as they might help with stiffness and pain control.

If these treatments are not effective in managing Achilles tendinopathy, it is advisable that you consider surgery especially when the pain becomes persistent. If you opt for surgery, this will involve removing the adhesions or nodules or making length way cuts in your tendons to encourage and stimulate healing. Surgery can thus be a good solution in nailing the condition completely.

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