Achilles Tendon Injury: Common Causes, Symptoms & Conservative Treatment Options. Have A Question? Speak To A Therapist Today. Call (24/7): 1300-003-777.
The Achilles tendon is a large tendon located at the back of the lower leg. It attaches the Gastrocnemius and Soleus calf muscles to the Calcaneus (heel bone). The major action of the Achilles tendon is to help you to push off during gait and running as well as allowing people to stand upright. Achilles tendon injury may be the result of factors such as:
- Sudden increase in load (i.e increase in exercise intensity or frequency).
- Decrease in appropriate rest/recovery after exercise or activity.
- Wearing inappropriate footwear.
- Foot and ankle abnormalities such as excessive pronation.
- Exercise on hard or uneven surfaces.
- Poor myofascial flexibility and strength of the calf muscles.
- Reduced ankle joint mobility.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
- ACHILLES TENDON RUPTURE OR PARTIAL TEAR refers to a partial or complete tear when the Achilles tendon is stretched further then its normal limit. This may happen during a forceful jump, pivot or sudden acceleration. Illness and medication may also lead to tendon weakness and increase the chances of sustaining an injury. When a rupture occurs an audible pop or cracking sound may be heard at the back of the foot. Surgery may be required to assist with healing and cure.
- ACHILLES TENDINITIS is a term that’s used to describe inflammation. Tendinitis is an overuse injury that’s commonly seen in runners, joggers and jumpers due to the repetitive nature of their activity. Burning pain may be noticed in the Achilles heel during activity as well as reduced calf muscle flexibility.
How Are Achilles Pain Injuries Diagnosed?
- PHYSICAL EXAM: Your practitioner will examine your lower leg, foot and ankle. This will involve a series of assessments such as observing you walk, stand on your toes as well as orthopaedic evaluation (Thompson test – calf squeeze) to determine if there is an Achilles injury. Achilles pain may present with associated conditions including Plantar Fasciitis, Shin Splints & Heel Spurs.
- PATIENT HISTORY: Your practitioner will discuss your complaint and how they injury occured. Questions may include the quality of pain, presence of relieving or aggravating factors, recent sporting activity and past history of injury.
- DIAGNOSTIC IMAGING: If your practitioner determines that further imaging is necessary then referral for MRI and Ultrasound may be required.
What Are The Best Achilles Tendon Treatment Options?
Achilles tendon injuries are one of the more common sports injuries that Sports Chiropractors & allied health practitioners treat. According to research, treatment programs should progress through six stages of healing in order to assist people return to normal activity.
- 1: Acute pain reduction.
- 2: Regain normal range of motion and biomechanics.
- 3: Restore eccentric muscle and soft tissue strength.
- 4: Restore concentric muscle and soft tissue strength.
- 5: Restore proprioception, agility and power.
- 6: Facilitate appropriate return to sport/activity.
Chiropractic & Physiotherapy
Chiropractors & Physiotherapist’s are musculoskeletal therapists that are trained in sports injury management procedures. Hands on management that may be administered by such professionals may include:
- Mobilisation of the ankle and foot to improve range of motion and biomechanics as well as assessment of the knee, hip, pelvic and lumbar spine kinetic chain.
- Soft tissue therapy such as Massage or needling to the Achilles tendon to assist healing & appropriate blood flow.
- Physiological therapeutics such as Ultrasound, Shockwave therapy or low level laser to assist with inflammation.
If it is found that you have associated structural abnormalities other devices to assist your recovery may be recommended by your Chiropractor or Physiotherapist. Devices may include foot orthotics, ankle straps/braces and moon boots in serious cases.
In worst case scenarios such as Achilles tendon rupture surgical intervention may be required. Surgery is aimed at stitching the tendon together to allow appropriate healing. As with all surgical intervention appropriate rehabilitation is recommended to assist with normal return to activity post procedure.
Chiropractor Achilles Tendon Research
- A combination of conservative rehabilitation strategies such as those implemented by Chiropractors and other allied health professionals can assist individuals suffering from Achilles tendon injuries return to normal activities of daily living in a timely manner. Papa, J. A (2012). Conservative management of Achilles Tendinopathy: A case report. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 56(3); 216 – 224
- A specific treatment and rehabilitation protocol of heat, soft tissue mobilization, eccentric exercise, stretching, and cryotherapy assisted complete recovery from Achilles tendinopathy. Miners, A (2011). Chronic Achilles tendinopathy: A case study of treatment incorporating active and passive tissue warm-up, Graston technique, ART, eccentric exercise & cryotherapy. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 55(4); 269 – 279.