Achilles tendinopathy is a painful condition that affects the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon is a connective tissue band that anchors the calf muscles to the heel bone. Often, the condition is caused by overuse of the part and is common in young people with high physical activity. Often, Achilles tendinopathy is characterized by severe heel pain, swelling, and difficulty walking.
When you visit a doctor with the symptoms of this condition, they could use your medical history, physical examination, and imaging techniques to diagnose the condition. Treatment for Achilles tendinopathy ranges from pain medication to surgery, depending on the severity of the condition. After all the treatments, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapy allows room for muscle build-up and restores the function of your foot.
The symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy can affect the quality of your life significantly. Therefore, you must consult a competent physical therapist in Las Vegas, NV. At Suarez Physical Therapy, we will help you relieve the symptoms resulting from your condition and prevent recurrence with minimal dependence on medication.
An Overview of Achilles Tendinopathy
Achilles tendinopathy is the type of injury that affects the tendons that connect your lower leg muscles to the bone. The Achilles tendon is the strongest and thickest tendon in the body. The tendon helps you move your foot when walking or running up the stairs. When you suffer from Achilles tendinopathy, the tendons become damaged, limiting their function. The damage to these tendons causes pain and makes it challenging to perform normal activities.
Sometimes, tendinopathy is known as tendonitis when the tendons are inflamed or swollen. Achilles tendinopathy is classified according to its severity:
- Mild tendinopathy. In mild cases, you will only experience pain during or shortly after performing a particular activity.
- Moderate tendinopathy. When the Achilles tendon swells, a hard lump forms in the tendon, making it challenging to move the foot.
- Severe tendinopathy. In severe cases of tendinopathy, any activity that requires you to lift the foot or put pressure on it causes pain.
Some common causes of Achilles tendinopathy include the following:
- Overuse injuries. These types of injuries occur when you overstretch your Achilles tendon, and it develops small tears. Individuals who engage in vigorous sports like running are at an increased risk of overuse injury and tendinopathy.
- Arthritis. Achilles tendinopathy can be a part of generalized inflammation caused by arthritis.
- Foot problems. Individuals with conditions like flat feet or feet which move inwards while walking are prone to tear and damage to the Achilles tendon. The flattened arch causes tendon strain by pulling up the calf. The constant stress from this action can cause tears in the tendons.
- Overweight and obesity. Being obese places extra weight on your feet. This can cause additional strain on your body's different muscles, including the Achilles tendon.
- Inappropriate footwear. Wearing shoes that offer minimum support, especially when walking or exercising, causes a strain in your Achilles tendons.
Any person can be diagnosed with Achilles tendonitis. However, you are at an increased risk of developing the condition under the following circumstances:
- Sex. Achilles tendinopathy is more common in men than women. Therefore, men who engage in vigorous exercise have a higher risk of developing the condition than their female counterparts.
- Age. As you age, your muscles become tighter and more susceptible to damage. Therefore, the condition becomes more common with age.
- Medical conditions and medications. If you have conditions like high blood pressure and are taking medications for the condition, you risk suffering from tendinopathy.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinopathy
Common symptoms that could result in Achilles tendonitis diagnosis include:
- Heel pain. Pain on the heels could either be sharp or an ache that occurs when you touch the area or move. The heel pain worsens when you put pressure on your foot by engaging in strenuous activities.
- Tendon stiffness. When you suffer from Achilles tendon damage, you can experience muscle stiffness after resting for a while.
- Tenderness, swelling, and discomfort at the back of your heel
- Limited motion when flexing the foot
- Warmth around the tendon
- Thickening of the Achilles tendon
- A creaking feeling and grating noise when moving the angle
Home Treatment for Tendinopathy
Treatment for tendinopathy symptoms begin at home. Some people will wait a while before consulting a doctor. Some of the homecare tips you can explore include:
- Rest. If you experience pain and other symptoms of tendinopathy. You need to avoid exercises for several days or switch to physical activity that does not strain your Achilles There are times when you may need to wear clothes to avoid staining the muscles.
- Ice. Pain at the back of your heel may be accompanied by swelling. You can apply an ice pack for up to fifteen minutes to reduce the inflammation.
- Compression. The Achilles tendon will continue to swell the more you use them. Simple acts like climbing the stairs could add further strain since some of these activities are unavoidable. You can wrap and compress the area with elastic bands to limit movement.
- Elevation. Sitting or sleeping with the affected foot at an elevated level could help blood flow to the area and reduce swelling.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Achilles Tendinopathy
When you consult your doctor complaining of pain and swelling around the Achilles tendon, your doctor will perform various tests to reach a probable diagnosis. During your physical examination, the doctor could gently press the painful area to determine the location of the pain. Additionally, you will be evaluated for flexibility.
Some medications, medical conditions, and physical problems could predispose you to this condition. Therefore, the doctor may check your medical history before making the diagnosis. In addition to physical assessment, the following tests may be necessary for an accurate diagnosis:
- X-rays. Although an x-ray cannot visualize problems with nerves and tendons, it can help rule out other conditions with similar symptoms to Achilles tendinopathy.
- Magnetic resonance imaging. MRIs use strong radio and magnetic waves that provide a detailed image of the Achilles tendon.
- Ultrasounds. can be used to produce a real-time image of the Achilles tendon in motion. This helps to evaluate the movement and blood supply to the area.
The doctor could recommend different treatments if you are diagnosed with Achilles tendinopathy. The type of treatment suited for your condition depends on the severity of your symptoms. Common treatments for tendinopathy include:
The first line of treatment for tendinopathy is to reduce the symptoms and their effect on your life. The doctor may prescribe painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol to reduce pain.
However, taking the medication for more than fourteen days could reduce the ability of your body to heal. This is because the drug masks the real problem by treating outward symptoms.
Drugs are a fast way to reduce the symptoms of tendinopathy. However, you could experience serious side effects from prolonged use of these medications. If you have a kidney or heart problem, you must disclose this fact to your doctor before accepting medication.
Extracorporeal Shock-Wave Therapy
This type of treatment involves the use of sound waves that pass through the skin to the Achilles tendon. These waves help to stimulate self-healing in the tendons. Since shock-wave therapy is relatively new, its effectiveness is unknown. Before you undergo the treatment, you must discuss the Side effects with your doctor, including rupture of the Achilles tendon and reddening of your skin.
Injection Using your Blood
The specialists will draw blood from your body and inject it into the Achilles tendon when using this treatment. Your blood's active and healthy cells are expected to promote the healing of the affected area. Your doctor may use ultrasound devices to guide the needle so they can inject the blood into the problematic area.
Surgery for Achilles Tendinopathy
If your symptoms do not resolve and your pain persists, the doctor could recommend surgery to correct the issue. One out of four individuals with persisting pain around the Achilles tendon will undergo surgery. A surgical procedure will involve any of the following:
- Making lengthways cuts to the tendons to encourage and stimulate healing of the Achilles tendon
- Removal of the Achilles tendons that are stuck together
- Debridement with a tendon transfer. If more than half of your Achilles tendon is damaged, the remaining part may not be enough to function correctly. In this treatment, your surgeon will remove some tendons from other parts of your body to replace the damaged ones and give the remaining tendons more strength to function.
When the surgery is performed by a skilled surgeon, the likelihood of success is high. While surgery for Achilles tendinopathy is safe, some people report the following complications after the surgery:
- Infection at the surgical site. An infection may result from poor sterilization or inappropriate care after the surgery. Treating an infection around the Achilles tendon is challenging.
- Recurrence of the condition. One of the worst outcomes of surgery is a failure to serve the intended purpose. If you undergo surgery for Achilles tendinopathy and the condition reoccurs, you may have to undergo another surgery.
Physical Therapy for Achilles Tendinopathy
After a tendinopathy diagnosis, your doctor could recommend that you undergo physical therapy to regain the full function of your foot. Physical therapy will promote recovery from this condition by addressing the pain and inflammation of the affected areas. Your physical therapist will design activities that strengthen the tendons and restore muscle flexibility and control. Your treatment plan may include the following:
- Education. Your physical therapist will work to identify any external factors that could increase your risk of tendinopathy. Some of these factors could include improper footwear and your weight. The therapist will then educate on how to correct these factors.
- Pain management. Physical therapy aims to minimize the symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy without taking medication. Therefore, your physical therapist could apply ice packs, heel lifts, and other therapies to minimize the pain in your foot. These strategies reduce the need and dependence on medication.
- Manual therapy. The physical therapist will help reduce pain and restore muscle movements by moving your muscles gently. Manual therapy helps to reach areas that are difficult to heal.
- Gentle Exercise. Application of weight or resistance to the affected area can contribute to recovery from tendinopathy. You may begin with gentle exercises and progress as you find endurance.
- Muscle strengthening exercise. Imbalance and muscle weakness can cause excessive pressure on the Achilles tendon. Depending on the severity of your condition, your physical therapist designs individualized activities and programs to correct any muscle weakness and create a balance.
- Functional training. When the pain at the back of your heel has reduced, and your range of motion has increased, you can safely transition to more strenuous activities. Your physical therapist will help you control your body movements to avoid the recurrence of the injury. Movement goals determine the type of activities that the therapist creates for you.
If you undergo a surgical procedure for Achilles tendinopathy, your physical therapist can continue to work with you for a faster and more effective recovery. Some benefits you accrue from physical therapy include the following:
- Lower dependence on medications. Many people are reluctant to undergo a surgical procedure. Therefore, you may be tempted to depend on pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications to relieve your pain and discomfort. Prolonged use of medications can cause addiction or more serious conditions like kidney failure.
- Promotes healing. Physical therapy works on the root cause of your pain and problem. The physical therapist incorporates exercises and routines that strengthen your body and prevent future recurrence of the condition.
Achilles Tendinopathy Prevention
You cannot reduce tendinopathy completely since accidents may cause it during work or exercise. However, you can take the following steps to reduce your risk of developing the condition:
- Incorporate stretching into your warm-up and cool-down This helps the Achilles tendon to relax and avoid sudden movements that could result in tears.
- Avoid dramatic sports exercises. The chances of recurrence may be higher if you have suffered from this condition. Therefore, any activities that strain your tendons should be avoided.
- Wear proper shoes. The types of shoes you wear while exercising should provide proper cushioning for your heel. Additionally, your foot should have a firm arch to help reduce the tension on the Achilles tendon.
- Strengthen your calf muscles. Strong calf muscles will help the Achilles tendon to handle the stress of everyday activities and exercises.
- Avoid exercising while you experience pain. You can try to work through your pain before continuing your exercise routines.
- Maintain an average healthy weight. Being overweight puts pressure on your foot muscles and increases the possibility of tendon damage
- Gradual increase in physical activity. When beginning an exercise routine, you should start with basic and less strenuous exercises and move gradually. This allows consistency in the duration and intensity of your exercises
Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Achilles Tendinopathy
Achilles tendinopathy can cause severe pain and affect the quality of your life. Therefore, consulting with a doctor is vital. The following are commonly asked questions on the condition:
- How long does Achilles tendinopathy take to recover?
Tendinopathy can take weeks or even months to recover, depending on the type of treatment you receive. Most people experience relief from their symptoms after up to twelve weeks of taking self-help measures and physical therapy. Following the instructions given by your doctor ot]r physical therapist may increase healing speed and prevent complications.
- Can I treat Achilles tendinopathy at home?
Yes. Tendinopathy varies in severity. Sometimes, the pain you experience results from overstretching and overusing your foot is mild. Therefore, you do not need to undergo extensive treatment procedures. Cold compresses and mild exercise can help relieve your symptoms.
- What is the difference between tendinopathy and tendonitis?
Achilles tendonitis means that the Achilles tendon is inflamed. However, when the tendons are dysfunctional or severely damaged, the condition is known as tendinopathy.
- Does Tendinopathy cause rapture of the Achilles tendon?
Although specialists believe that the underlying cause of Achilles tendon rupture is tendinopathy, the rupture is painless. Most patients remain unaware of the condition until they receive a medical diagnosis. If you have developed the symptoms of swelling and pain, it is unusual for the tendons to rupture.
Find a Skilled Las Vegas Physical Therapist Near Me
Achilles tendinopathy is a form of irritation to the Achilles tendon. You risk suffering from Achilles tendinopathy when you overuse your ankle and foot. The most common symptom of this condition is severe pain and the back of your ankle, making it difficult to run or walk. Achilles tendinopathy is treatable using anti-inflammatory drugs, surgery, and physical activity. The doctor could recommend that you undergo physical therapy for long-lasting and more effective results.
A physical therapist will help you reduce pain and restore the injured tendon's flexibility, strength, and mobility. One benefit of physical activity is the combination of treatment and preventive measures. Additionally, you can avoid dependence on medications. For effective and first-rate physical therapy services in Las Vegas, NV, we invite you to contact us at Suarez Physical Therapy. Contact us today at 702-368-6778 if you are battling Achilles tendinopathy or other Muscle conditions.