Achilles tendinopathy is a condition that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and weakness of the Achilles tendon. It is thought to be caused by repeated tiny injuries (known as microtrauma) to the Achilles tendon. After each injury, the tendon does not heal completely, as should normally happen. This means that over time, damage to the Achilles tendon builds up and Achilles tendinopathy can develop.
There are a number of things that may lead to these repeated tiny injuries to the Achilles tendon. For example:
Overuse of the Achilles tendon. This can be a problem for people who run regularly. (Achilles tendinopathy can also be a problem for dancers and for people who play sports that involve jumping.)
Training or exercising wearing inappropriate footwear, or having poor training technique.
Making a change to your training program – for example, increasing the intensity of your training and how often you train.
Training or exercising on hard or sloped surfaces.
Having a high-arched foot.
Having poor flexibility – for example, having tight or underdeveloped hamstring (thigh) muscles.
Achilles tendinopathy is also more common in people who have certain types of arthritis, such as ankylosing spondylitis or psoriatic arthritis. It is also thought that genetics may play a part for some people who develop Achilles tendinopathy. People who are taking drugs from a group called fluoroquinolones for long periods (such as antibiotics ciprofloxacin and ofloxacin ) also have an increased risk of developing Achilles tendinopathy.
The main symptoms include pain and stiffness around the affected Achilles tendon. Symptoms develop gradually and are usually worse when you first wake up in the morning. (Severe pain that comes on suddenly and difficulty walking can be a symptom of Achilles tendon rupture. See a doctor urgently if you develop these symptoms.)
Some people have pain during exercise but, in general, pain is worse after exercise. Pain due to Achilles tendinopathy may actually prevent you from being able to carry out your usual everyday activities such as walking to the shops, etc. You may notice that you have pain when you touch the area around your Achilles tendon. There may also be some swelling around this area.