Achilles Pain


There is little wonder that Achilles pain is one of the most frequent lower body complaints encountered by doctors and podiatrists; while this particular tendon is the largest in the body and is built to withstand the pressures created by running and jumping it is also susceptible to developing tendonitis through overuse and degeneration.

Achilles tendonitis is the most common form of Achilles pain, however, this condition has recently been referred to as Achilles tendinopathy as it has been discovered that tissue degeneration and loss of fibre structure is a primary cause of pain, rather than inflammation. The term ‘tendonitis’ is still the most frequently used terminology, however, and it can be acute (lasting for a few days after training), or chronic (occurring over a long period of time).

Achilles tendonitis causes a host of symptoms, but the most common indicators are pain and stiffness in the tendon, especially upon waking, pain in the tendon or heel that intensifies during weight-bearing activities, acute pain that develops a day after physical activity, the development of bone spurs and chronic swelling of the tendon that worsens over the course of the day or during physical activities.

It’s important to note that if a a sudden ‘popping’ sensation occurs in the back of the heel it make indicate that the Achilles tendon has ruptured, and this condition requires immediate medical attention.

Achilles pain is not usually caused by a specific injury unless the tendon has been torn; rather, it is usually the result of long-term stress that wears down the health of the tissues. A sudden increase in physical activity is often to blame for excessive stress being placed on the tendon, but a change in footwear or training surfaces, training on an incline (such as running uphill), tight calf muscles, over-pronation of the feet, and bone spurs are all common factors in developing a painful Achilles tendon as well.

Rest is the most effective treatment for Achilles pain, especially when combined with cold therapy. Ice should be applied after physical activity whether pain is present or not. Using an orthotic device, especially heel pads, will reduce strain on the Achilles tendon, especially during the initial stages of recovery, though if the situation is severe wearing a night splint or immobilizing boot may be necessary.

Getting a massage is not indulgent; improving blood flow to this area is critical for healing and the Achilles tendon is an area with naturally restricted circulation. While topical anti-inflammatories are often useful cortisal injections should be avoided as they can increase the risk of a ruptured tendon.

Wearing supportive shoes with adequate cushioning is important; high heels should not be worn, especially if the pain is acute. Stretching the calf muscles should become a priority as well—the tighter the calf muscles the more intensely they pull on the Achilles tendon, which can not only cause pain and inflammation, but which also contribute heavily to over pronation of the feet. Having tight calf muscles can begin a viscous cycle of Achilles pain as the muscles and tendons become tight, causing discomfort and imbalances.

If non-invasive countermeasures and treatments do not provide relief than medical attention should be sought, because while Achilles pain may be common it doesn’t have to be chronic; there is help for this type of discomfort.

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