Achilles tendinitis (heel pain, treatment)

Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation and/or irritation of the Achilles tendon which runs down the back of your lower leg – often called the ‘hamstring’.

The Achilles tendons are the largest in the human body. It allows the large muscles of your calf to extend your foot, and is used heavily when climbing stairs, walking and running, or when standing on tip-toe.

Both repetitive stress, simple overuse and several forms of degeneration can affect the Achilles tendon with tendinitis. There are two primary kinds:

  • Noninsertional Achilles tendinitis is the result of degeneration of individual fibres in the middle of the tendon. It is most common among very active young people.
  • Insertional Achilles tendinitis occurs where the tendon connects to the heel. This is most common in long distance runners and sprinters, and may be accompanied by bone spurs (unusual bone growth).

Treatment of Achilles tendinitis

Most cases of Achilles tendinitis can be treated without surgery. However, it can be a long process taking several months. If you have been experiencing pain for many months before seeking treatment, it may take you 6 months or more to recover – so it is important to see your doctor early.

Physiotherapy is seen as particularly effective in treating noninsertional Achilles tendinitis, but it is commonly a part of the treatment for both conditions. Such treatment often involves a form of Eccentric Strengthening Protocol, and should be conducted, at least initially, only under the supervision of a skilled physiotherapist.

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