Tackling Achilles Pain Using Physiotherapy

What is it?

Often called Achilles tendonitis, this is characterised by pain in the Achilles tendon which runs down the back of the leg from the calf to the heel, and can develop inflammation and other problems through overuse.

Some familiar symptoms of an upset achilles:-

  • Pain with walking, stairs, running, and of course cycling
  • Swelling/thickening/nodules over the achilles
  • Crepitus on flexing and extending the ankle
  • Weakness coming up onto toes
  • Reduced dorsiflexion (bending your knee over your toe)
  • Stiffness first thing in the morning or after prolonged inactivity

Things that may have caused it in the first place:-

  • Overload and overtraining!
  • Poor lateral foot/heel stability
  • Excessive pronation
  • Calf fatigue
  • Toe pointing or excessive ankling
  • Saddle too high, forcing you to over-reach and toe point at the bottom of the pedal stroke.

How does physiotherapy treat Achilles pain?

We recommend seeking professional advice before attempting any self-help treatment. The aim of rehabilitation is to decrease the initial pain and inflammation, improve calf muscle flexibility and strength, re-establish joint co-ordination and gradually return to full fitness.

The first stage of treatment for achilles tendonitis is to decrease pain and inflammation so normal daily activities such as walking can be done pain-free. This stage can last for anywhere from 3 days to several weeks depending on the severity of your condition and can be achieved with a number of methods:

Pain management through icing and reduced loading will be the initial approach, coupled with a rehabilitation program of specific exercises to help encourage repair of the damaged fibres in the tendon and strengthen the calf muscles.

Rest is very important. Achilles pain is one injury that you should listen to your body with and if it hurts rest it. If acute Achilles tendonitis is allowed to become chronic it can be very very difficult to cure.

The physio may also look at taping the affected area to allow a return to cycling. Taping the Achilles tendon can help reduce the load on the tendon and relieve pain. Strips of elastic tape go from the top of the calf muscle and pass under the heel and can be beneficial in the early stages where the aim is to rest the tendon as much as possible as well as when returning running.

If you’re suffering from any type of Achilles pain or cycling-related injuries, get in touch with PCA on 0813 028 0496.

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