COLUMN: ‘Take care of your Achilles’

Phil Heler.
Phil Heler.

Phil Heler provides advice on how to avoid achilles injuries in his monthly column on how to stay active.

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body.

Despite this fact it can be compromised by any activity that involves repeated running, jumping, and sudden accelerations - i.e. most sports!

The term ‘Achilles tendonitis’ is no longer used as it has now been superseded by ‘Achilles tendinopathy’.

This is because it is now understood that inflammation is not a major contributory factor (which is what ‘tendonitis’ originally suggested).

Overall issues are more common in men than in women and typically tend to affect men between the ages of 30-40.

The actual condition itself is thought to be caused by repeated micro-traumas caused by overuse injuries or inappropriate foot wear, sudden changes in intensity in training or training on gradients or even poor flexibility.

At our clinic a typical presentation would be a gradual onset of pain, stiffness and weakness.

Often people report a degree of pain during exercise that may be more emphasized on completion - such as running runners for instance can notice pain at the beginning of their run, this may then appear to ease, but typically the pain increases when once they return home.

For most people, the symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy usually clear within 3-6 months of starting treatment.

Sports should not be resumed until the condition is completely resolved or it may become a chronic issue.

The best treatment options are rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).