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Physical Therapy for Achilles Tendonitis

For the past few months, I've been dealing with Achilles tendonitis, and I did nothing initially, hoping it would just go away on its own. Well, after being sidelined for a month with no improvements, I decided to take my own PT advice and start the rehab process. I'm happy to report that I'm back to running three to four times a week, and my Achilles is feeling around 90% better than it did a few months ago. My experience has inspired me to write about this condition and explain the causes, symptoms, and treatment behind it!

achilles tendonitis

What is Achilles Tendonitis?

Achilles tendonitis is a common injury that affects the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the human body. This tendon connects the heel bone to the calf muscles and is responsible for allowing the foot to point downward and the calf to push off the ground during walking or running. Achilles tendonitis is caused by inflammation of the Achilles tendon and can be a debilitating injury that can limit mobility and affect daily activities.

Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis

Symptoms include:

  • Swelling in the heel

  • Stiffness in the heel

  • Localized pain along the tendon after running

  • Morning tenderness

  • Sluggishness in your leg

Causes of Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis can be caused by a few factors, including overuse, sudden changes in activity level, and poor footwear. It is most commonly seen in runners and athletes who participate in high-impact sports, such as basketball or soccer. Other factors that can contribute to Achilles tendonitis include:

  • Tight calf muscles: When the calf muscles are tight, they put more strain on the Achilles tendon, increasing the risk of injury.

  • Flat feet or high arches: Foot structure can also contribute to Achilles tendonitis. Flat feet or high arches can put extra stress on the tendon, leading to inflammation.

  • Poor footwear: Wearing shoes that do not provide proper support can also lead to Achilles tendonitis.

Interventions for Achilles Tendonitis:

Several interventions can be used to treat Achilles tendonitis, including the ARICE method, physical therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery. ARICE is often the first step in treating Achilles tendonitis and involves actively resting the affected area, applying ice to reduce inflammation, using compression to support the tendon, and elevating the foot to reduce swelling. Active rest involves low-intensity and low-impact exercises, such as walking, swimming, yoga, and cycling.

Physical therapy can also be an effective treatment for Achilles tendonitis. Physical therapy can help to reduce inflammation and pain, improve range of motion, and strengthen the muscles around the Achilles tendon. Physical therapists can use a variety of techniques, including manual therapy, stretching, and strengthening exercises, to help patients recover from Achilles tendonitis.

Functional Physical Therapy for Recovery

Functional physical therapy, also known as functional training, is a type of therapy that draws upon the principles of Applied Functional Science to focus on improving movement and function, rather than just treating the injury itself. This type of therapy can be especially helpful for patients recovering from Achilles tendonitis, as it can help address any underlying issues that may have contributed to the injury. Functional physical therapy can involve a variety of exercises and techniques, including:

  • Gait training: Gait training involves teaching patients how to walk or run properly, with the goal of reducing stress on the Achilles tendon.

  • Balance training: Balance training can help to improve balance and stability, which can be especially important for athletes who participate in high-impact sports.

  • Plyometric training: Plyometric training involves explosive, high-intensity exercises that can help improve strength and power in the lower legs.

  • Proprioceptive training: Proprioceptive training involves exercises that help improve awareness of the body's position and movement, which can help prevent future injuries.

Functional physical therapy can be an effective way to help patients recover from Achilles tendonitis and prevent future injuries. By addressing any underlying issues that may have contributed to the injury, functional training can help patients improve their overall movement and function, reducing their risk of future injury.

Interested in Physical Therapy?

Achilles tendonitis is a common injury that can be effectively managed with physical therapy. If you are experiencing symptoms of Achilles tendonitis, it is important to seek treatment from a qualified physical therapist. With the right treatment and guidance, you can recover from this injury and prevent it from becoming chronic. For more information about Achilles tendonitis or how our team at Rehab United Seattle can help you, please reach out to us at 206-524-4977 or request an appointment online!


Kelly Vanhove, PT, DPT, FAFS, ATC is a licensed physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, and Director of the Seattle Rehab United Clinic. With over 14 years of experience in outpatient physical therapy as well as being a Fellow of Applied Functional Science, he possesses valuable knowledge of all functional techniques of assessment, rehabilitation, training and conditioning, performance, and prevention.

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