Achilles Tendinopathy: Causes and Symptoms (Part 1)
The Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the human body, plays a crucial role in everyday activities such as walking, running, and jumping. However, when this tendon is suddenly overloaded it can lead to a condition known as Achilles tendinopathy. Achilles tendinopathy is when part of the tendon degenerates and its fibres become disorganised, which then disrupts the way force is distributed through the tendon. We will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for Achilles tendinopathy, providing you with a comprehensive understanding of this common injury.
Causes of Achilles Tendinopathy:
Overtraining: Achilles tendinopathy typically occurs as a result of overuse or repetitive stress on the tendon. Engaging in intense physical activities or sudden increases in training volume without giving the body sufficient time to adapt can put excessive strain on the Achilles tendon. For example, jumping from one game of basketball a week to five games of basketball a week within a 2 week period.
Improper footwear: Wearing shoes that lack proper support or do not fit correctly can increase the risk of developing Achilles tendinopathy when combined with sudden overtraining.
Biomechanical factors: foot structure, such as flat feet or high arches, can influence how force is distributed through the Achilles tendon, making it more susceptible to injury when combined with sudden overtraining. Footwear can also change the normal force distribution through the Achilles tendon which is why supportive footwear is important.
Age and degeneration: As we age, the Achilles tendon can lose some of its elasticity and become more prone to injury.
Common symptoms of Achilles Tendinopathy:
- Pain and stiffness: Often felt just above the heel. The pain may present at the start of activity, feel better during the middle of activity and worsen post activity (typically the night or next morning after activity).
- Tenderness and thickening: The area above the heel may become tender to the touch, and some individuals may experience thickening of the tendon.
- Calf weakness and pain: Inability or difficulty with calf raises, hops, jumps or running. If achilles tendinopathy is present, the calf muscle isn’t able to work as well as it should which then presents as weakness.
- Discomfort and pain when stretching or compressing the tendon: If you are stretching the calf muscle by hanging your heel off a step, you may experience pin-point pain in the Achilles tendon.