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Achilles tendinopathy

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Achilles tendon, a band of tendon joining your calf muscle to your heel at the back of your ankleYour Achilles tendon joins your calf muscle to the back of your heel. It helps bend your foot downwards from your ankle, allowing you to stand on your tiptoes and helping you walk, run and climb.

Achilles tendinopathy is a condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in these tendons. The condition used to be called Achilles tendinitis.

Although Achilles tendinopathy is common in people who play sports that involve jumping and running, it can also be caused by wearing shoes that rub on the tendon or by sudden movements such as stepping in a pothole.

Causes of Achilles tendinopathy

While the cause is not certain, health professionals think it happens because of repeated tiny injuries to the tendon, or overuse.

Things that can lead to Achilles tendinopathy include:

Symptoms of Achilles tendinopathy

Pain and stiffness in the tendon are the main symptoms. These may be worse when you first get up and improve once you're moving around.

The pain can vary. While it may happen during exercise, it's usually worse once you stop. Runners can notice pain when they start running. It then tends to become more bearable during the run. But it gets worse once they stop.

You may also notice pain when you touch the area around your Achilles tendon, and it may be swollen.


If you get a sudden, severe pain in the back of your leg and have difficulty walking, you may have torn (ruptured) your Achilles tendon. Some people say the pain feels like being hit in the leg, or they hear a snap or crack. See a doctor urgently.

Diagnosing Achilles tendinopathy

Your doctor or physiotherapist will usually diagnose Achilles tendinopathy by listening to your symptoms and examining your leg, ankle and foot.

If the diagnosis is unclear, your doctor or physiotherapist may suggest an ultrasound or MRI scan to see if you have any tears in your Achilles tendon.

Treating Achilles tendinopathy

There are several things you can do to treat this condition. If you follow the advice below, your symptoms should get much better within seven to 10 days and you should be able to slowly build up your level of activity.

For most people, the symptoms completely go away within three to six months.


Resting and taking time off sport are important. At first you should completely stop any high-impact sport, such as running. But resting completely for a long time might actually make the injury worse so as the pain starts getting better, you can start exercising again. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist if you aren't back to normal after a couple of weeks.

Pain relief

Taking paracetamol (Panadol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen (Nurofen) can help to relieve your pain. Some people shouldn't take NSAIDs, and you shouldn't take them for more than one to two weeks. Talk to your health professional if you still need pain relief after one to two weeks.

Ice packs

Ice treatment can help to control the pain and reduce swelling in the early stages of Achilles tendinopathy. You can use it if your leg is swollen. Ice slows down blood flow to the damaged tendon, which helps to reduce the pain.

Make an ice pack by wrapping ice cubes in a plastic bag or towel or even using a bag of frozen peas. Do not put ice directly on your skin, as it can cause an ice burn. Gently press the ice pack onto your Achilles tendon area.

Use ice for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Less than 10 minutes has little effect. Longer than 20 minutes may damage your skin. Do not leave ice close to your skin when you're asleep.


It's important that you do not stretch your Achilles tendinopathy. Instead, you’ll need to start to gently and gradually strengthen it.

Your physiotherapist will give you exercises to do. While you're doing the exercises, it's important that you feel the tendon working but it shouldn’t be painful or remain sore afterwards.

Getting help for Achilles tendinopathy

If you have not started to improve within 10 to 14 days, it's best to see a physiotherapist, podiatrist or GP. They can offer extra treatments such as a specific exercise programme or orthotics.

Steroid injections aren't used for Achilles Tendinopathy.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2022.


Page reference: 281775

Review key: HIAAF-225274