Northern Michigan
Physical Therapy Blog

A Guide to Achilles Tendonitis

by | Sep 14, 2020

Having pain in the back of your heel and up the back of the ankle is terrible. 

You know those first few steps in the morning are going to be tough. 

You can feel yourself limp when you walk on Esch Rd beach because with every step the pain is there.  

Forget going on the TART trail this summer, you know it will not be as enjoyable.

If you feel this pain in the back of your heel or behind your ankle, you are likely experiencing the very common condition of Achilles tendonitis.  

We hope this article offers some guidance on your pursuit of returning to activities that bring you joy, and getting rid of that pain in your Achilles tendon!  

What is Achilles Tendonitis? 

Achilles tendonitis is an irritation of the Achilles tendon, a thick band of tissue that runs along the back of the lower leg, connecting the calf muscles to the heel. 

The Achilles Tendon has the very important job of transmitting force from the calf muscles down to the foot when our foot strikes the ground. 

In other words, it keeps us upright!  

Without the Achilles Tendon, we would fall forward!   

Try this to get a better understanding.  Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, and start leaning forward.  Before long, you will feel the front of your feet dig into the ground and your Achilles tendon will activate.

The Achilles tendon absorbs the load of our body weight with every step. When the demand placed on the tendon is greater than its ability to function, repetitive irritation or “microtrauma” occurs.  

Over time, this turns into a chronic injury of Achilles tendonitis.  


Common Signs and Symptoms

  • Swelling in the back of the ankle
  • Tightness/Pressure in the calf
  • Tenderness in the heel that can radiate up in the Achilles tendon. Applying pressure could make the pain worse.Pain and stiffness with walking, especially with the first several steps you take after waking up.

Sound Familiar?

What causes Achilles Tendonitis?

We call this the million-dollar question, and one we take very seriously.  

You now know that the Achilles tendonitis is repetitive irritation or “microtrauma” of the Achilles tendon.  

In order to find out how it gets irritated we need to think back to the function of the Achilles tendon.  

Remember, it transmits the force between the calf muscle and the foot, and keeps us upright!  

This leads us to the next question, which we believe it is the most important question you can ask.

What else has the function of transmitting force between our calf and the foot?

The associated structures are often where the “cause” lies.  

The truth is, the powerful muscles that attach to our hips (glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors) play a huge role in transmitting force between our calf and foot, and helping to keep us upright.  

Here are some of our favorite “hip opener” exercises.    (link to vimeo video with hip stretches) 

How will we Diagnose?

Each person who comes to Pursuit Physical Therapy for a diagnosis will notice our unwavering desire to remove the guesswork.  We will perform a detailed and customized examination to accurately diagnose.  Our process is as follows: 

  1. Q&A – we listen to your story – This will guide our next steps
  2. Detailed observation and analysis of foot/ankle flexibility and strength
  3. Detailed observation and analysis of hip flexibility and strength 

Based on our findings from the analysis we will have a good understanding of why the Achilles tendon is painful and what we can do about it.  

I want to find out why my Achilles tendon hurts, and what I can do about it. (link to scheduling page) 

How can we help?

The process we follow here at Pursuit Physical Therapy is simple and effective.  

  1. First and foremost – reduce the pain
  2. Find the true cause and fix it – No Guesswork
  3. Implement a long-term solution, so you can return to your activities

Using our training from the world-renowned Gray Institute, we have learned how to assess and diagnose from the best in the world.  

We are very confident in our ability to find the true cause of your pain and implement strategies to fix it for good. 

We’re committed to being honest, detailed, and personalized.  

You deserve a plan that applies to you as an individual, not a cookie cutter program.  This is our promise, and this is how we achieve optimal outcomes. 

I want a personalized plan for fixing my Achilles tendonitis

What is my next step?

In order to know how to fix it, you need to know what caused it! 

Once we have an idea of what caused it, we can streamline your time and energy on what you would most benefit from. 

I want to get started.

If you’re sick of the pain and want to address it now, give us a call.    We love this stuff and we would be honored to help.  We guarantee to get back to you within the same business day.

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