Achilles injuries can be really frustrating, especially if you’re someone that is very active. Our Achilles Tendon is important for everyday activities, such as walking, jumping and running; therefore, it is essential that our tendons are strong and flexible to withstand high and continuous loads. These tensile loads can be up to ten times our body weight.
As well as the loads placed through them, our Achilles are more at risk of injury with age, excess weight, muscle imbalances, fatigue or leg length discrepancies. Therefore, it is important that we continuously consider these factors when trying to stay healthy and injury-free.
The Achilles, like all tendons appear white on diagrams and models. This is because they are avascular; in simpler terms, they have limited blood supply to them. Because of the limited supply, this also makes the healing process longer, so it is even more important that we avoid injuries!
Types of Achilles Injuries?
Achilles Tendinitis indicates inflammation of the tendon. This is most common in overuse injuries, whereby repetitive “micro trauma” and strain caused by continuous overload causes the Achilles Tendon to become inflamed and painful.
This can be characterised by the feeling of a stiff Achilles and lack of flexibility. Our Achilles may feel thicker and we may also get pain in the tendon that worsens with active or passive movements going into the calf muscles. In some instances, whereby the tendonitis occurs at the insertion point in the heel bone, you may start to form a bone spur (a hard projection along bone edges).
Treatment options that have been found to be useful include; rest and ice, NSAIDs, soft tissue treatments, electrotherapy, prescription exercises, strapping, orthotics and injections or surgery.
If an Achilles Tendinitis goes unnoticed or mistreated, Achilles Tendinosis may creep in. Achilles Tendinosis is a chronic condition where there is a structural change of the tendon. Causes of this are usually down to repetitive micro traumas/overuse with a lack of healing, and can be more common with age (age decreases blood supply).
Although treatment of an Achilles Tendinopathy is similar to that of Achilles Tendinitis; because of the nature and structure of a chronically injured Achilles, treatment may be more complex and recovery time would be longer.
Achilles Ruptures can differ in severity; from partial tears of the fibres to a complete tear. Ruptures can occur in anyone, but are more common in those of us that are particularly active or athletic. This is because the common mechanism of injury for an Achilles rupture is that of a sudden force applied through the tendon that it is unable to withstand. Ruptures are often characterised by an initial feeling or sometimes audible ‘pop’, followed by swelling, bruising and pain. There may be a visible deformity in the Achilles and/or calf muscle, along with a weakness and sometimes the inability to point the foot.
Achilles injuries left untreated can significantly worsen and as a result, increases the recovery time, as they are already a particularly tricky injury to “heal” quickly as it is.
Please contact your local Physiotherapists for advice if you feel you have any issues with your Achilles and calves, alternatively, you can use out FREE Ask A Physio service.