Ankle pain is a common discomfort that many of us have experienced at some point in our lives. While it can result from various factors, one potential culprit for persistent ankle pain is Achilles tendinopathy. 
 
If you've been dealing with nagging ankle pain that just won't go away, it might be time to consider whether Achilles tendinopathy could be the cause. 

What is Achilles tendinopathy? 

Achilles tendinopathy is a condition that affects the Achilles tendon, which is the thick band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. This tendon plays a crucial role in everyday activities like walking, running, and jumping. When it becomes injured or inflamed, it can result in pain and discomfort that can significantly impact your mobility and quality of life. 
 
The condition is often categorised into two main types: Achilles tendinitis and Achilles tendinosis. Tendinitis refers to inflammation of the tendon, usually caused by overuse or sudden increases in physical activity. Tendinosis, on the other hand, involves degeneration of the tendon due to chronic repetitive stress. Both types can lead to similar symptoms and discomfort. 

What causes Achilles tendinopathy? 

Several factors can contribute to the development of Achilles tendinopathy, including: 
 
Overuse and repetitive stress 
Engaging in activities that involve repetitive jumping, running, or sudden increases in intensity without proper conditioning can strain the Achilles tendon, leading to micro-tears and inflammation. 
 
Improper footwear 
Wearing shoes that lack proper support or have inadequate cushioning can place excessive stress on the Achilles tendon, increasing the risk of injury. 
 
Biomechanical issues 
Abnormalities in your foot structure or gait can alter the way your Achilles tendon functions, leading to increased strain and potential injury. 
 
Tight calf muscles 
If your calf muscles are tight and lack flexibility, they can pull on the Achilles tendon, making it more prone to injury. 
 
Age and activity level 
As we age, the blood supply to tendons decreases, making them more susceptible to injury. Additionally, individuals who engage in high-impact activities may be at a higher risk of developing Achilles tendinopathy. 
 
Poor training techniques 
Inadequate warm-up, improper stretching, and not allowing sufficient rest between intense workouts can contribute to the development of this condition. 

What symptoms will I have if it is Achilles tendinopathy? 

The most common or main symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy are an ever-growing stiffness and increasing pain normally at the back of your ankle and within the joint itself. The tendon might feel tender when you touch it and there may be a grating noise or creaking feeling (known as crepitus) when you move your ankle. 
 
This may not always be constant however, as it may be worse first thing in the morning or after you’ve done any exercise or activity. The Achilles tendon may feel particularly stiff when you first get up or if you haven’t moved for a while. The stiffness may ease off when you start moving again. If this starts to affect your daily life and activity quality, then it is time to have it assessed and treated. 
 
However, if you have a sudden occurrence of pain at the back or in your heel or calf, which quickly becomes swollen, bruised and tender, this can mean you have torn the tendon. You may actually hear a loud snap. This is called an Achilles tendon rupture. You should get urgent medical attention if this happens, there has been times where previous clients have come in with this having occurred and the only course of action is to ring an ambulance. On the lighter side of things however, we are more than happy to treat an irritated and painful ankle tendon, to help ease the annoying and painful sensations you have. 

Managing and preventing Achilles tendinopathy 

The good news is that there are several steps you can take to manage and prevent Achilles tendinopathy: 
 
Rest and gradual progression 
If you're experiencing pain in the Achilles tendon area, it's crucial to rest and avoid activities that exacerbate the pain. Gradually reintroduce physical activity once the pain subsides, focusing on proper technique and progression. 
 
Stretching and strengthening 
Incorporate calf stretches and eccentric strengthening exercises into your routine. Eccentric exercises involve lengthening the muscle while it's under tension, which can help improve the tendon's strength and resilience. 
 
Proper footwear 
Invest in shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning, especially if you engage in activities that put stress on your Achilles tendon. 
 
Biomechanical assessment 
If you suspect biomechanical issues, consult a professional like a physical therapist who can assess your gait and provide guidance on exercises and techniques to correct any abnormalities. 
 
Icing and anti-inflammatory measures 
Applying ice to the affected area can help reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can also provide temporary relief. 
 
Gradual increases in intensity 
When starting a new exercise routine or increasing the intensity of your workouts, do so gradually to allow your body to adapt and minimise the risk of overuse injuries. 

Watch our video on Achilles tendinopathy 

Identifying and diagnosing the problem can be a complicated process so please contact a therapist to fully assess the pains you may be having. Diagnosing the correct condition (tendinitis vs tendinopathy) will be crucial to your recovery, as they require different treatment plans. 
 
Struggling with ankle pain? Talk to our friendly team today to find out how we can help. 
Tagged as: ankle, pain, running
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