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What is Achilles Tendinopathy (AT)?

Achilles tendinopathy (AT) is a condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness, as well as weakness of the Achilles tendon.

Road running and home video exercise regimes that involve a lot of jumping and skipping are common causes of Achilles tendon pain.

The Achilles is the largest tendon in the body, enabling you to walk, run, jump, and use stairs, sometimes tolerating up to ten times your body weight in running or jumping activities.

Over-use or repeated over-load such as road running or repeated hopping, skipping, or jumping activities may cause AT. After an injury, the tendon does not heal completely as it should. Instead, cellular changes occur to the tendon and its surrounding tissue. This does not make the tendon weak, but it does make it challenging to tolerate loads while running and walking.

Achilles tendinopathy is one of the most common injuries in physical exercise. Research suggests men are more susceptible to AT while adults in their 30s and 40s have been shown to have a greater incidence.

If you are experiencing Achilles pain, contact Physiotherapy Services at UPMC for an evaluation and treatment plan. No GP referral required. We have locations close to home in Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, Limerick, Mayo, Tipperary, and Waterford.

What Causes Achilles Tendinopathy?

  • Over-use, especially for runners.
  • Change in training load, such as an increase in training intensity, type, or duration.
  • Inappropriate footwear such as poorly fitted, worn, flat, or no arch support.
  • Training on hard or sloped surfaces like asphalt or artificial grass.
  • Poor flexibility primarily in the calf and hamstring muscles.
  • Poor lumbo-pelvic control of the hip, pelvis, and core.

What are Signs and Symptoms of Achilles Tendinopathy?

Some of the signs and symptoms of Achilles Tendinopathy involve:

  • Pain or stiffness at the back of heel or lower leg.
  • Tenderness upon touching the tendon.
  • Swelling at the back of the heel.
  • Interference with day-to-day life such as walking or using the stairs.

Pain will typically ‘warm up’ during the first 5 to 10 minutes of a run. This often stops people from seeking help as they can run through the pain. As time progresses, pain will eventually be felt during training or running, often causing a complete halt to activity due to the severity of symptoms.

How Is Achilles Tendinopathy Treated?

The first line of treatment for Achilles tendon pain typically consists of:

  • Rest from the aggravating activity and allowing the symptoms to reduce or subside: If an activity such as walking does not cause pain during, immediately after, or in the days following the activity, you may continue your activity.
  • Adequate footwear: Wear well-structured shoes, like running shoes and avoid flat footwear with no arch support.
  • Stretching: Calf muscles.
  • Strengthening: Heel raises – start with double and progress to single leg raises. Aim for 3 sets of 15 repetitions each set.
  • Foam rolling: Calf musculature.
  • Gluteal/hip stability: Strengthening exercises such as clam shells, hip abduction, fire hydrant, and hip extension.

As symptoms subside, you can begin a gradual return to exercise, but ‘phased’ being the optimum word. If symptoms reoccur, return to a previous stage. It may take days or a few weeks to resume normal activity, pending the severity and length of time symptoms existed.

If symptoms persist, contact Physiotherapy Services at UPMC. No GP referral required. At UPMC, we offer locations close to home in Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, Limerick, Mayo, Tipperary, and Waterford.

UPMC Physiotherapy Locations

We offer physiotherapy services to treat AT at the following UPMC locations:

Make an Appointment

You do not need a referral to make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists. To schedule an appointment with UPMC Physiotherapy Services, please contact us at one of the locations listed above.