Commonly known as Achilles Tendonitis, Achilles Tendinopathy is usually characterised by degeneration of the tendon (the Achilles tendon is situated above the heel and forms the lower part of the calf muscles). The degeneration means that the tendon does not possess its normal tensile strength and may be liable to rupture with continued sporting activity.
Achilles Tendinopathy usually comes on gradually, and is more common in those aged over 40. There is pain, which is worsened by activity, and the focal areas of degeneration feel tender to touch. Often the tendon feels very stiff first thing in the morning. The affected tendon may appear thickened in comparison to the unaffected side.
Training errors should be avoided. The intensity, duration and frequency of training sessions should be carefully monitored and gradually progressed. Sudden increases in these variables should be avoided. Muscle strength and flexibility should be maintained through regular strengthening and stretching sessions.
It is thought that an 'over pronated' foot position (where the foot rolls inwards) can place excessive strain on the Achilles tendon and lead to Achilles Tendinopathy. In this case it is often useful to consult a chartered physiotherapist, who can carry out a biomechanical assessment (an assessment of posture at rest and during walking and running). If there is excessive pronation it is usually effective to insert an arch supporting insole that can help to correct the problem.
The key to recovering from Achilles Tendinopathy is in trying to elicit a healing response without overloading the tendon. This requires rest from sporting activities for up to three months. This is because the collagen tissue, which the body produces to repair the tissue damage, takes three months to lay down and mature.
Published research has suggested that recovery is optimised by using a programme that uses what is called 'eccentric muscle work'. Eccentric muscle work refers to a muscle that is lengthening while contracting - a contraction that occurs during movements such as landing and decelerating. Maximum tension is generated in the muscle during the eccentric contraction and this causes the tendon to adapt and get stronger.
The Aircast AirHeel™ can be very effective in relieving heel pain due to Achilles Tendinopathy. By applying compression to the heel and the arch of the foot, the AirHeel™ relieves strain on the Achilles tendon. This can give rapid relief to those suffering with Achilles Tendinopathy.