Achilles Pain

Achilles pain can be caused by various conditions, primarily related to overuse, injury, or degeneration of the Achilles tendon. Some conditions associated with Achilles pain include:

  1. Achilles Tendinitis: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon often due to repetitive stress or sudden increase in activity.
  2. Achilles Tendinopathy: Degenerative changes in the tendon’s structure, typically from chronic overuse without adequate rest or healing.
  3. Achilles Tendon Rupture: A complete or partial tear of the Achilles tendon, which can be due to a sudden force or movement, like sprinting or jumping.
  4. Retrocalcaneal Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone.
  5. Haglund’s Deformity: A bony enlargement on the back of the heel bone, which can lead to bursitis and irritation of the Achilles tendon.
  6. Insertional Achilles Tendinitis: Inflammation where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone, often associated with bone spurs.
  7. Systemic Conditions: Some systemic conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, can cause inflammation of various tendons, including the Achilles.
  8. Medications: Certain medications, notably some types of antibiotics (like fluoroquinolones), have been associated with Achilles tendon issues.
  9. Inappropriate Footwear: Shoes that don’t offer adequate support or have a worn-out heel can contribute to Achilles pain.

Achilles pain, stemming from various conditions related to the Achilles tendon, can manifest in several ways. The following are common symptoms associated with Achilles tendon issues:

  1. Pain: This is typically felt directly over the Achilles tendon, between the heel and the calf. The pain may be sharp or aching, depending on the condition, and can worsen during or after running or other physical activities.
  2. Stiffness: The Achilles tendon may feel stiff, especially in the morning or after prolonged periods of inactivity.
  3. Swelling: There might be localised swelling along the tendon or near its attachment to the heel.
  4. Thickening of the Tendon: Chronic conditions like tendinosis can lead to a noticeably thickened portion of the tendon.
  5. Decreased Range of Motion: You might notice difficulty in flexing your foot or pointing your toes due to pain or stiffness.
  6. Warmth and Redness: The area around the Achilles tendon may feel warm to the touch and appear reddened.
  7. Tenderness: The tendon can become sensitive to touch or pressure, and it may be painful when squeezed.
  8. Crepitus: There might be a crunchy sound or feeling when the ankle or foot is moved, particularly in tendinosis.
  9. Weakness: The affected foot might feel weak, especially when pushing off while walking or running.
  10. Noticeable Gap or Lump: In the case of an Achilles tendon rupture, there might be a gap or lump where the tear has occurred.
  11. Difficulty in Walking: Particularly in cases of a tendon rupture, there may be significant difficulty in walking or bearing weight on the affected foot.

These symptoms can vary in intensity based on the specific condition, its severity, and individual factors. If you suspect an Achilles tendon issue or experience any of these symptoms, especially suddenly or severely, it’s essential to seek medical evaluation to determine the exact cause and appropriate treatment.

Achilles pain arises from conditions or factors that strain or injure the Achilles tendon. Here are the primary causes of Achilles pain:

  1. Overuse: Engaging in intense physical activities or suddenly increasing the intensity or duration of exercise can lead to inflammation of the tendon (Achilles tendinitis).
  2. Tendon Strain: Caused by repetitive or intense activities, including running, jumping, or sudden acceleration.
  3. Achilles Tendon Rupture: A strong force or sudden movement, like sprinting or jumping, can cause a partial or complete tear of the Achilles tendon.
  4. Inappropriate Footwear: Wearing shoes with inadequate support or a worn-out heel can strain the tendon.
  5. Foot Mechanics: Overpronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot) can add stress to the Achilles tendon.
  6. Tight Calf Muscles: Reduced flexibility in the calf muscles can increase strain on the Achilles tendon.
  7. Bone Spurs: Extra bone growth where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone can rub against the tendon, causing irritation.
  8. Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursa (a fluid-filled sac) located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone can cause pain.
  9. Age: The tendon can weaken and become less flexible with age, increasing vulnerability to injury.
  10. Certain Medications: Some antibiotics, especially the fluoroquinolone class, have been linked to an increased risk of Achilles tendon issues.
  11. Systemic Diseases: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can cause inflammation of tendons, including the Achilles.
  12. Haglund’s Deformity: A bony enlargement on the back of the heel bone can lead to bursitis and irritation of the Achilles tendon.

Treatment for Achilles pain depends on the specific cause and severity of the condition. Here’s a general overview of treatments for Achilles-related issues:

  1. Rest: Avoid aggravating activities.
  2. Pain Relievers: Use over-the-counter options like ibuprofen.
  3. Physiotherapy: Strengthen and improve flexibility.
  4. Orthotics: Correct foot mechanics.
  5. Proper Footwear: Ensure heel support.
  6. Stretching: Focus on calf and Achilles.
  7. Immobilisation: For severe injuries, use a boot or cast.
  8. Surgery: Considered for severe cases or if other treatments fail.
  9. Gradual Return: Slowly reintroduce activities post-recovery.

For Achilles pain, consider seeing:

  1. Physiotherapist: Initial assessment. Provides rehabilitation exercises and techniques to alleviate pain and improve function.
  2. Your GP: For initial assessment and referrals.
  3. Orthopaedic Surgeon: Specialises in musculoskeletal issues, including Achilles tendon problems.

Yes, specific exercises can be beneficial for Achilles pain, but they must be done correctly and at the appropriate stage of healing:

  1. Strengthening Exercises: Eccentric exercises, which involve lengthening the muscle-tendon unit while under load, can help strengthen the Achilles tendon. An example is heel drops on a step.
  2. Flexibility Exercises: Gently stretching the calf muscles and Achilles tendon can improve flexibility and decrease tension on the tendon.
  3. Balance and Proprioception Exercises: These can help improve stability and reduce the risk of re-injury.
  4. Low-Impact Activities: Swimming and cycling can maintain cardiovascular fitness without putting excessive strain on the Achilles tendon.

It’s crucial to introduce exercises slowly and under the guidance of a physiotherapist or medical professional, especially when recovering from an injury. Aggressive or inappropriate exercises can exacerbate the condition.

Not always. Surgery for Achilles pain is typically considered when:

  1. There’s a complete rupture or significant partial tear of the Achilles tendon.
  2. Conservative treatments (like physical therapy, rest, medication) haven’t improved the condition after several months.
  3. There are persistent, degenerative changes in the tendon (chronic tendinosis) not responding to non-surgical interventions.
  4. Bone spurs or other structural issues are causing tendon irritation.

Many cases of Achilles pain can be effectively managed without surgery. Consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon or physiotherapist can provide a clear recommendation based on the specifics of your condition.

Chews Health top tip for Achilles pain

Get your problem assessed by a professional, this will enable you to start the appropriate rehabilitation as soon as possible. If it is a classic tendinopathy, finding an optimal loading profile for you and your tendon is essential to recovery.

Our Specialists

Melanie Clarke
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2023-02-22
We’ll be forever grateful to Chews, the guys are the absolute BEST IN CLASS when it comes to a fully tailored recovery plan. Our son is a young elite competitive acrobatic gymnast who sadly had a high impact fall at gymnastics dislocating and fracturing his elbow and needed surgery, for a gymnast that trains many hours over 4 days week it was devastating blow, especially with GB competitions coming up. Once out of cast (wk 4 post opp) we started 2 x weekly physio sessions with Richard Saxton (who specialises in child’s physio), he was thorough, diligent and his amazing assessments fully supported the coaches at our sons gym to help build a safe recovery plan. The sessions with Richard and Sanford were fun, engaging and they took great care to help improve full mobility and strength. At week 7 post op our son was doing skills we thought would have taken 4mths to achieve, by week 10 he was back to full impact training, even our hospital follow up with the senior elbow consultant was blown away by the physio support we’d had and the rapid recovery. If it wasn’t for Chews we 100% would not be back training this quickly and not have had the reassurances it was safe to do so…..we’ve definitely found a physio for life. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts Team Chews. From Mel & JJ x x
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2023-02-21
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2023-02-06
I have had a chronic back condition to varying degrees for many years which more recently has forced me to have weeks off work at a time. I was recommended Chews Health by a colleague having tried other physios in the past. However, I always felt that something was missing from the plan. My back muscles would on occasion go into spasm, or my disk to impinge on my nerve, affecting my mobility and effectively setting me back to square one. I came to Chews health a bit wary and was considering surgery due to how much my back was affecting my quality of life and mental health. It has not been a straight forward recovery, but i have made significant progress through having a thorough history taken, my ongoing concerns listened to, and being provided with a clear explanation of not only the exercise plan but additionally explaining why my body was responding in varying ways. This has educated about my condition and provided me with the tools to self manage my condition more effectively should it deteriorate again.. It has not been plain sailing, but I have absolute faith in Jack and his team.
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2023-01-09
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2023-01-05
I can thoroughly recommend Chews Health physio. Sessions from diagnosis to rehabilitation are stimulating as well as therapeutic. Jack’s holistic, insightful approach goes beyond fixing the initial problem - he builds the confidence and self-knowledge to help maintain fitness and avoid strains and niggling injuries in the future. His message that the body needs exposure to regular challenges has inspired my journey towards optimum health.
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2022-12-21
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feralie Bennett
feralie Bennett
2022-11-23
I saw Richard Saxton for a chronic pain in my achillies. 2 visits, with massage and exercises: clear concise instruction, both written and verbal to do at home were realistic & adapted for my ability - I now no longer require pain relief & can walk the dogs pain free & even manage a few hills. A follow up call to review my progress was also appreciated. The clinic was clean & well equipped. Would highly recommend.
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2022-11-16
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2022-10-31
I had been suffering from plantar fasciitis for some months and went Chews Health in the summer for shockwave treatment, after my podiatrist said she had heard good reports about it. Until then I had been resting, exercising it, icing it, using insoles etc., none of which had made much difference. I booked six treatments at the start (recommended) and by the time of the last treatment It was hardly noticeable, so much better! I’ve had two further treatments over the last month, just to be on the safe side, and I’m doing some exercises now to build up the strength in my calf and foot. Chews Health comes with heartfelt recommendations from me, they are friendly, very knowledgeable and best of all - they have fixed my sore foot!