While many think it’s only elite athletes who suffer from Achilles tendon issues, 20 % of people over age 50 actually suffers from Achilles tendinopathy . And while very few of these will be ruptures, the pain can be frustratingly persistent and limit our ability to exercise and enjoy life.
Who gets it?
Achilles tendinopathy can affect athletes who participate in sports that involve running or explosive movements
But most people who experience this type of pain are aged 40 – 64 years.
That’s because the Achilles tendon bears the brunt of activities like running, playing golf, walking the dog, and stepping off the kerb throughout life. Being overweight, having diabetes, and high cholesterol all increase the risk of developing Achilles tendon pain. Tendon pain can lead to further weight gain and a greater impact on someone’s health beyond just their ability to run and exercise.
Overcoming tendon pain
The good news is that painful Achilles tendons rarely rupture. Some 80-90% of people who rupture their tendon have never had Achilles tendon pain. Your brain is clever as it uses pain to protect your Achilles tendon by changing your behaviour. But it’s easy to become overprotective.
A course of acupuncture can help relieve pain and inflammation and then start strength training to help strengthen the tendon and the calf muscles. If you want to get back to running, slowly introduce exercise that requires the tendon to act like a spring, such as skipping and jumping.
Just like muscles, tendons get stronger with exercise. Starting exercise that produces no or minimal pain and progressively increasing the intensity of exercise is by far the best option.
It can be tempting to look for a quick fix for your pain. But interventions such as surgery or injections are often ineffective, costly, and can be harmful.