What is it, do I have it and how do I prevent it?
Over the last couple of month’s I have had a significant number of patients attend my Clinic with Achilles Tendonopathy and to my mind the condition is becoming more and more common.
So what is Achilles Tendonopathy?
Let’s start with the anatomy of the achilles tendon. The achilles is a large tendon that connects the soleus and the gastrocnemius muscles (the calf muscles) to the calcaneus bone (heel). The tendons main purpose is to absorb large forces that the human body undergoes when walking, running, jumping and so on.
Achillies tendonopathy is an overuse injury. This simply means that the people who experience this problem are loading the tendon repetitively with very little rest or they are putting huge amounts of force through the tendon relatively quickly. My experience suggests patterns in which the majority of sufferers of this condition are either runners who are running long distances consistently with very little rest in between or those who decide to run a set distance, perhaps even a marathon with zero to little training or conditioning. This causes the tendon to degenerate (become damaged). However, it should be noted that you are still at risk of developing this condition if you play other sports.
So, how do I prevent Achilles Tendonopathy from developing?
- Be sure to gradually increase the duration and intensity of your training.
- Always run in appropriate footwear. Local sports shops can help with gait analysis and fitting.
- Try not to train on too many varying surfaces.
- Allow 1 to 2 days of rest between your runs and activities involving impact so that you prevent overloading the tendon.
- My top tip is to stretch the calf muscles including both the soleus and the gastrocnemius (as demonstrated in the video at the end of this blog) This should be done as frequently as possible (especially in the morning and before and after exercise).
Do I already have Achilles Tendonopathy?
The main symptoms associated with the condition are typically:
- A gradual onset of pain at the back of the ankle, just above the heel bone which may develop over a period of days, weeks or months.
- Pain in the Achilles after exercise.
- Pain walking up or down stairs or steep inclines or declines.
- Pain and stiffness of the Achilles/ankle joint in the mornings.
- Tender to palpate or touch.
- If it feels lumpy on palpation of the Achilles tendon.
If you are suffering with one or more of these symptoms, my advice would be to attempt to stretch the calf muscles as demonstrated in the video below.
If this isn't successful, the next strategy would be to book in with a Sports Therapist so they can treat the problem using a variety of techniques including massage, ultrasound and exercise.
George Rentoul, BSc (Hons), MSST, graduated in 2016 from the University of Chichester with a 2:1 BSc (Hons) Degree in Sports Therapy.
George has experience in both the clinical and pitch side environments and has worked with several Team GB athletes. George also provides pitch-side Sports Therapy for Portsmouth Grammar School, St Johns College, The University of Portsmouth and Hampshire RFU.
George is available for booking at SWEAT Southsea on Tuesday's, Wednesday and Thursday's.