Achilles tendinitis is one of the most common overuse injury in active people and athletes.
Studies show that there are no inflammatory cells present in patients experiencing pain in the Achilles tendon. Therefore this condition should properly be named Achilles tendinopathy. The word tendinopathy means that there is a degeneration of the tenocytes (tendon cells) in the Achilles tendon.
Incidence and Prevalence
Achilles tendinopathy is a condition more prevalent in middle aged males.
Types of Achilles tendinopathy:
1. Mid portion 2-6 centimeters from insertion of the tendon to the heel
Achilles serves as a conjoined tendon of the gastrocnemious and soleous muscles. The average length of Achilles tendon is 12 cm. It changes its orientation by twisting 180° to its insertion onto back side of the heel.
Clinical history and examination is usually sufficient, however diagnostic ultrasonography is very accurate and preferred in determining the stage and extent of Achilles tendinopathy.
Usually clinical history is very revealing however diagnostic ultrasonography or MRI assists in differentiating location in the Achilles tendon. Radiology also assists in staging tendinopathy which is very important for treatment options.
According to research young athletic individuals respond to treatment faster than middle age adults. For such young patients the treatment may take up to three months, whereas for middle age adults treatment may take up to six months.
Intervention is based on scientific evidence.
Some interventions although having low scientific evidence may work clinically.
Taping – insertional type
Laser and Iontophoresis, ultrasound, steroid injections, plasma injections – all have very low to no scientific evidence.
At NYDNRehab we have extensive experience treating Achilles tendinopathy in runners as well as the non-athletic population. Based on sonographic evaluation and gait (running) analysis we create an individual treatment plan. Treatment options may very depending on type and stage of Achilles tendinoopathy and may involve: combination of manual therapy, eccentric loading exercises, force production exercises, ESWT (Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy). Research shows that by far the greatest results were achieved with any type of Achilles tendinopathy by combining ESWT with eccentric loading exercises.
Numerous studies indicate that in most people complaining of Achilles tendon pain, there are no inflammatory cells present. Therefore, the terminology referring to tendon pain has shifted to tendinopathy, meaning that some type of degeneration has occurred in the tendon cells.
Physically active middle-aged males are the most likely to report Achilles tendon pain. Roughly 89 percent of Achilles injuries are sustained by men between the ages of 30 and 50. However, tendinopathy can occur in both sexes, active and sedentary. Twenty-four percent of athletes and about 50 percent of runners develop Achilles tendinopathy at some point.
As the largest and thickest tendon in your body, the Achilles tendon plays an important role in your lower kinetic chain, enabling you to walk, run, jump and rebound with forceful power. During walking, the Achilles can handle stress loads of almost four times the body weight, and eight times or more of the body weight during running.
The tendon is formed where the powerful calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus, merge at the base of the lower leg, connecting them to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon works with the muscles of the calf to plantar flex the foot at the ankle, pointing the toes downward. The Achilles tendon has poor blood supply, mostly coming from the posterior tibial artery.
Achilles tendinopathy typically falls under one of two categories:
The main symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy are pain felt behind the heel at the back of the ankle when walking or running, and pain and stiffness upon waking after sleep.
When demands placed on the Achilles tendon exceed its capacity to meet them, tendinopathy occurs. It may result from a single incident of acute trauma, but more often than not, it results from repetitive microtrauma, where the breakdown of tendon tissue worsens over time.
Common underlying causes of Achilles tendinopathy include:
Extrinsic risk factors for Achilles tendinopathy may include certain medications, arthritis and metabolic disease.
During clinical diagnosis, the doctor will examine your foot and ankle and ask questions about your physical activities and the history of your ankle pain. Diagnostic ultrasound may be used to get real-time images of the structures of your foot, to confirm diagnosis, assess the degree of damage, and rule out other causes of your ankle pain.
Traditional treatment approaches for Achilles tendiopathy include:
At NYDNR, we design our treatment protocols based on the latest scientific research and evidence. Your individualized treatment plan may include some or all of the following:
Young athletic patients often respond to treatment more quickly than middle-aged adults, with recovery taking about three months for younger patients and up to six months for adults.