Recovering from an achilles injury

Regardless of your sport or choice of exercise, achilles problems can affect us all. It’s a difficult injury to recover from, with improvements and a return to exercise possible in just a few weeks – but full recovery much harder.

The tendons

Tendinopathy is the umbrella term used for a tendon problem and this covers a variety of different injuries. The most common problem is tendinosis: a structural change and subsequent deconditioning of the tendon resulting from overloading over a prolonged period. The other term you may have heard is tendinitis, the inflammation of the tendon, though this is much less common and for this post we want to focus on tendinosis.

Treatment of tendinosis can see quick results, showing up to a 95% symptom improvement in just six weeks – but it’s the final few percent that takes a lot longer and it’s important to address this.

Tips from Physio Central

As with all our advice on the blog, please seek professional help if you’re unsure and to make sure that the programme is right for you. But, if you suspect you’re suffering from tendinosis, or think you might be, then here are some simple things to get you started.

The initial treatment is all about reducing pain and improving your ability to run/cycle/walk.

To start with we’d suggest some simple heel raises, as shown here . Slowly repeat for 1 minute (about 10 repetitions) and aim to do this 1-3 times per day. As a guide, some discomfort during the exercise is ok but that should quickly reduce once you have finished the set. If it doesn’t reduce within a few minutes or seems to be getting worse over time, stop the exercise and seek a proper assessment.

Often you’ll see some quick improvements over the first few weeks just from doing this exercise – but that will plateau after a point. So from here you need to look at varying the exercises and increasing the load. The split squats shown here are an excellent way to work the leg “chain” as a whole, rather than focusing on individual muscles and tendons.

At this stage it’s now about strengthening – essential not just in recovery but also in preventing injuries from happening again. You should also find some performance gains in your chosen sport as well! This isn’t something where a general approach will work as it will depend completely on the individual, their recovery, their chosen sport and the severity of the initial injury. Your physio will be able to provide a controlled and progressive strengthening programme that will ensure a full resolution of symptoms.

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