Achilles Tendonitis (Tendinopathy)

Achilles Tendonitis

An Achilles tendon injury (tendonitis or tendinopathy) is one of the most common causes of pain felt behind the heel and back of the ankle. While Achilles Tendonitis affects both active and inactive individuals, it is most common in active individuals, specifically runners. An estimated 50% of runners will experience Achilles pain in their running careers. In all individuals, Achilles Tendonitis can result in a limited ability to walk, go up and down stairs, or participate in sports.

Achilles Tendonitis 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 Achilles tendon helps to translate forces from the foot through the ankle joint and into the leg. Achilles Tendonitis results when the demand placed on the Achilles tendon is greater than its ability to function. This can occur after 1 episode (acute), or more commonly after repetitive irritation or "microtrauma" (chronic). Pain can be present at any point along the tendon, but the most common area to feel tenderness is just above the heel.

The severity of Achilles Tendonitis, like most tendon injuries, is graded based on the amount of damage to the tendon. Grade 1 is a mild strain, Grade 2 is a moderate strain, and Grade 3 is a complete rupture.

Causes of Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles Tendonitis may result from a combination of several different factors:
• Ankle stiffness
• Calf tightness / weakness
• Abnormal foot structure / mechanics
• Improper or unsupportive footwear
• Runners with core / hip weakness
• A sudden change in exercise routine

Signs & Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis

Tenderness / Tightness in the heel, ankle or calf muscle
Swelling in the back of the ankle
Pain in the back of the heel with walking / running
Stiffness with walking / running, worst with the first several steps

How Can I Prevent Achilles Tendonitis?

You can help prevent Achilles injuries by maintaining adequate lower extremity mobility and muscular strength, and by paying attention to your exercise routine. Being aware of changes in an exercise surface, the volume of exercises performed, or your footwear are the best methods for preventing Achilles injuries.