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What’s Causing My Achilles Tendon Pain?

What’s Causing My Achilles Tendon Pain?
What's Causing My Achilles Tendon Pain?

Achilles Tendon Pain Isn’t Just Reserved For Athletes

Achilles tendon pain or injury isn’t only confined to the athletic population. Developing Achilles tendon pain and can happen to anyone, whether you’re involved in jogging and jumping activities or not. Most tendon injuries are the result of gradual wear and tear of the tendon from overuse or ageing. People who repeat the same motions over and over again in their jobs, sports, or daily activities are more likely to irritate their tendons Achilles or otherwise.
Tendons are those tough ropey tissues that you see connecting your muscles to bone. Achilles tendon pain and injury usually occurs near its attachment point to the heel bone in what is referred to as the “mid tendon”. The mid tendon is situated around 1-2cm above the insertion into the heel, this mid tendon injury is considered a non-insertional tendinopathy and is different to and Achilles tendon injury where the site of symptoms are where the tendon attaches to the heel bone.

Achilles Tendon Pain: Slow Onset But A Long Road To Recovery

It is pretty common for the Achilles tendon to get injured. Achilles tendon injury can happen suddenly or little by little. Generally you are more likely to have a sudden injury to your Achilles tendon if the tendon has been weakened over time.
Injury could be mild or moderate where the individual feels pain or stiffness around the heel or upper heel area but function is mostly preserved. Or more severe, where the Achilles tendon has partial tears or is completely ruptured. Regardless of the level of severity Achilles tendinopathy issues can take weeks to months to settle even in the very mild cases.

Labeling Achilles Tendon Pain

Professionals within the medical industry often use different terms to describe tendon injury. Common terms include:

  • Tendonitis (sometimes written as tendinitis): “itis” part of the word indicates inflammation so what tendonitis or tendinitis refers to is inflammation of the tendon. This is generally no longer the preferred term when referring to tendon pathology such as occurs in Achilles tendon pain because studies have shown that inflammation is rarely the cause of tendon pain.
  • Tendinosis: The “osis” suffix refers an abnormal or diseased state. So the word tendinosis refers to an abnormal state, in case to the Achilles tendon. Meaning there is a situation where degenerative change is present and tiny tears in the Achilles tendon are present. This is something that doesn’t occur rapidly and with Achilles tendon pain tendinosis develops over time caused by an over load to the tendon.
  • Tendinopathy: “opathy” really just denotes change (‘change in’) hence tendinopathy means ‘change in’ the tendon and this is pretty much now the term most physiotherapist and other medical clinicians working frequently with musculoskeletal complaints use when talking about tendon issues such as  Achilles tendon pain.

Although the difference between labeling tendon injury as ‘tendinitis’, ‘tendinosis’ or , tendinopathy’ seems unimportant what is going on in the tendon has implications for the management of the condition. Since ice, anti-inflammatories and rest don’t typically fix a tendon with a suffix ending in ‘osis’ or ‘opathy it means getting the name right is the first step to getting better.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic provides this information as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on What’s Causing My Achilles Tendon Pain?  should consult his or her physiotherapist, sports medicine specialist, orthopedic surgeon or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.

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