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Physical Therapy for Achilles Tendonitis – Information, Exercises, and More

You just had an amazing run.

You were able to increase your speed and pacing more than you ever have before.

Later, you begin to notice an aching sensation in the back of your ankle that won’t go away.

You could be experiencing Achilles tendonitis.

In this guide, we will walk you through the cause and symptoms of Achilles tendonitis, and what kind of treatment plans are available for you.

What is Achilles Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis refers to painful inflammation of the Achilles tendon.

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body and connects your calf to your heel bones.

Your Achilles tendon allows your body to:

  • Walk/run
  • Jump
  • Climb stairs
  • Stand on the tip of your toes

While this tendon can handle a lot of stress from these activities, overuse and degeneration of the Achilles tendon can result in Achilles tendonitis.

What Causes Achilles Tendonitis?

Any activity that puts repetitive stress on the Achilles tendon can cause Achilles tendonitis.

Certain risk factors can increase the frequency and chances of developing Achilles tendonitis.

Risk Factors for Achilles Tendonitis

There are several risk factors for Achilles tendonitis including:

  • Age. As you get older, the structure of the Achilles tendon begins to weaken, making you more susceptible to Achilles Tendonitis.
  • Your sex. Studies show that males may be at a greater risk for developing Achilles tendonitis than females.
  • Foot/calf problems. Being flat-footed or having chronically tight calf muscles can cause strain to the Achilles tendon. Bone spurs can also rub against the Achilles tendon and cause Achilles tendonitis.
  • Medical conditions. Studies show that conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes can alter the morphology and structural integrity of the Achilles tendon.
  • Medications. Studies show that taking fluoroquinolones are linked to higher occurrences of Achilles tendonitis.

Achilles Tendonitis Symptoms

Achilles tendonitis pain is located along the Achilles tendon in the back of the heel or ankle area.

If you have Achilles tendonitis, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Pain — especially after running or exercise
  • Tenderness to touch
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling

Always consult with your doctor about symptoms you are experiencing, as it is important to also rule out other possible foot and ankle injuries.

Achilles Tendonitis Treatment

Treatment for Achilles Tendonitis can vary depending on the severity of the injury to the Achilles tendon.

For mild cases of Achilles tendonitis, home care may be sufficient while more severe or recurring cases can require other treatment options.

Here are some treatment options to consider for Achilles tendonitis.

Home Care

Mild cases of Achilles tendonitis can be treated with self-care using the R.I.C.E method:

  • Rest. Avoid exercise and overuse of the Achilles tendon for several days to allow healing.
  • Ice. Icing the tendon for up to 15 minutes at a time can help reduce Achilles tendonitis pain and swelling.
  • Compression. Compressing the tendon by wrapping it with bandages can help decrease swelling and irritation by decreasing the movement of the tendon.
  • Elevation. Raising the foot above heart level can help reduce swelling. This practice can be easy to implement at night while sleeping.

Medications

Taking anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help reduce swelling and pain in your Achilles tendon.

If over-the-counter medications are not relieving your Achilles tendonitis pain, your doctor may prescribe other types of pain medications.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy to help strengthen the Achilles tendon and surrounding structures.

A physical therapist may provide the following treatment options:

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises targeting the Achilles tendon and surrounding structures.
  • Orthotic devices such as sole inserts and shoes that help absorb walking impact and relieve the stress placed on the Achilles tendon.

Surgery

In severe cases where you are not responding to other treatment options or your Achilles tendon has torn, surgery to repair the tendon may be suggested by your doctor.

Achilles Tendonitis Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

Yes.

Physical therapy not only helps stretch and strengthen the Achilles tendon, but also the surrounding structures that help provide support to the tendon.

Strengthening these areas can also help prevent re-injury to the Achilles tendon.

Best Achilles Tendonitis Exercises

A physical therapist may prescribe a variety of exercise and stretches for Achilles tendonitis to:

  • Help restore normal function of the Achilles tendon
  • Help you re-transition into physical activity

Let’s take a look at some of the most common exercises and stretches that may be recommended by a physical therapist for Achilles tendonitis.

Range of Motion Exercises

This type of exercise is the starting point for recovery.

Different stretching and manual therapy techniques are used to help restore the full range of motion to your ankle joint and release tension in the Achilles tendon.

Gentle Exercise

Once you have established a normal range of motion, gentle exercises can be introduced.

Some examples of gentle exercise include:

  • Pushing/pulling against a resistance band with your foot
  • Heel raises

Strengthening Exercises

These types of exercises will address strengthening the surrounding muscles around your tendon that provide support.

Typically, your physical therapist will create a customized exercise plan to address weak muscle areas that can cause excessive strain on your Achilles tendon.

Balance and Control Exercises

When your pain has decreased and your range of motion and strength are restored, these types of exercises will help you transition back into physical activity without re-injuring the Achilles tendon.

Balance and control exercises help retrain your body on how to perform safe, controlled movements that do not put your Achilles tendon or surrounding muscles at risk for injury.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Achilles Tendonitis

In Motion O.C. is dedicated to helping you recover from Achilles tendonitis so you can continue exercising and enjoying the physical activities that you love.

As the #1 rated physical therapy clinic on Yelp! and Google, In Motion O.C. has helped hundreds of people like you successfully recover from Achilles tendonitis.

In Motion O.C.