Achilles tendinopathy is a medical condition known to cause pain, swelling and stiffness of the Achilles tendon that joins your heel bone to your calf muscles. It is caused by repeated minuscule injuries to the Achilles tendon; most often, Achilles tendinopathy is found in runners as they typically overuse their tendons, this is especially prevalent if you are not wearing the correct type of footwear.
Usually, if you suffer from subtle mid-Achilles pain after an increase or change in exercise, likely, you will also suffer from reactive tendinopathy. First and foremost, you will want to calm and settle your symptoms; the most effective form of treatment for this is load management. If you reduce the stress on your Achilles to a level that your tendon can manage, it should settle down in as little as 5-10 days! It would be best if you continued to rest, except in mild cases where small amounts of running are acceptable as long as it is pain-free. Although, it is essential to remember your tendons can take up to 24 hours to respond to load, so you may not hurt until the following day.
What can be done to ease Achilles Tendinopathy?
- Anti-inflammatory medication – Even if inflammation is not present, ibuprofen has proven highly effective when dealing with reactive tendinopathy. Not only does it help reduce the tendon’s reactive response, but it also decreases tendon swelling.
- Isometric calf exercises – Whilst standing, push up onto your toes on both feet, using support if needed. Hold this position for around 5-10 seconds before slowly lowering again. As you progress, you should begin to place more of your body weight on the weaker leg during the ‘hold’ section of this exercise to help strengthen.
- Offload – Use a gel heel raise in your shoes at all times or kinesiology tape. Both methods should be used temporarily when the tendons become sore, whether this is for running or walking.
- Use ice for a maximum of 15 minutes at a time to reduce pain or massage the calf muscles to reduce tightness – top tip, avoid the tendon area, especially when they are sore!
If none of the above methods works for you, it may be time to take critical action. This would include seeing a podiatrist and/or undertaking treatment via ultrasound; if you have responded well to this in the past, it may be the best option for you. Furthermore, once your symptoms have settled, your return to exercise should be gradual and following the guidance of your health professional.