In your running journeys, many of you will have noticed this niggling stiffness or soreness around the back of your ankle or heel, particularly the morning after a longer than usual run.
What is Achilles tendinopathy
In some cases the soreness is minimal and you keep running through it and eventually, it goes away by itself. In many cases, the pain persists or unfortunately worsens. What do you do then? Achilles tendinopathies - ‘issues’ of the Achilles’ tendon - are common in active people. Data suggest 1 in 4 competitive athletes, and between 40-50% of runners, will experience issues with their Achilles’ tendon. People with Achilles tendon issues often report pain, stiffness or soreness, particularly in the morning.
How to fix Achilles tendon injury
The key to fixing Achilles pains is to address the factors that led to the development of the pain, which a physiotherapist will work with you to identify and tackle. Factors include:
- A sudden, significant change in your running compared to what you’re used to. This is the biggest reason we see in the clinic, and usually, it’s a jump in the distance or amount of speed work. Other changes you might not have considered include a change in surface (grass vs track vs road), new shoes, inclines.
- Running technique errors, including overpronation at foot contact, overstriding and poor propulsion.
- Weakness in your foot, calf, glute, hamstring or quadricep muscles.
- A flexibility deficit in your big toe, ankle, or hip joint
- The tightness of your foot arch, calf, or hip flexor
Treatment of Achilles tendinopathy
Treatment with your physiotherapist will almost definitely include a period of rehabilitation, so come prepared to exercise and sweat! Your physiotherapist may also massage or use dry needling to help reduce your Achilles symptoms.
The resolution of symptoms often correlates with how long you’ve been sore for, as well as how long it takes to change the causative factors. So be prepared for your Achilles pain to take a while to go away completely. This doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to run during this time - even if you have pain in your Achilles, there often a level of running you can do that won’t make your symptoms worse. It will even be beneficial to your recovery. Your physiotherapists will work with you to determine what distances, speeds, and levels of soreness are safe to ensure continued recovery and keep you on the road to becoming the best runner you can be!