1. What is it?
The Achilles tendon is the common attachment point for the calf muscles to the heel. It is the thickest and strongest tendon in the body (it is also the most frequently ruptured tendon too). Achilles tendonitis is usually due to overuse from repetitive micro-trauma causing inflammation. Achilles tendonitis accounts for up to 11 percent of all running injuries.
2. What are the causes/predisposing factors of injury?
There are two categories of causes; those from within the body (intrinsic) and those involving outside factors (extrinsic).
a) lack of flexibility in the calf muscles
b) too much pronation
c) bowed legs (causing the Achilles tendon to pull at an angle)
d) excessively high arches
e) structural misalignments
f) muscle strength imbalances (shin versus calve muscles)
a) too much of an increase in mileage too soon
b) too much of an increase in training intensity
c) too much hill or speed training
3. What can be done to prevent or treat the injury?
a) Prevention is aimed at addressing all the above causes. Stretching and strengthening the calve muscles (and shin muscles), proper footwear and following appropriate training guidelines are all relevant in reducing the likelihood of getting this injury.
b) Treatment is initially focused on reducing inflammation. Ice, non-steroidal anti inflammatories and physical therapeutics can all be used to reduce swelling. Heel lifts can be used temporarily to reduce tension on the tendon. Soft tissue massage and cross friction massage can also be beneficial in breaking up any excessive scarring or adhesion formation in the healing tissue. Gentle stretching of the calve muscles, and later on strengthening exercises are also recommended.