An Achilles tendinopathy

A tendinopathy is an injury that affects the tendon (part that connects muscle to the bone) mainly caused by overuse. It is a fairly common injury that most of the time causes local pain. The Achilles tendon is affected regularly and in an acute way due to the huge mechanical demand and the poor vascularization. Increased stress or recurrence of the movement can cause microtraumas that ultimately end up degenerating the tendon or in the worst case tearing it. The difficulty of healing the tendons comes from the fact they are poorly blood irrigated areas. A person suffering from this problem will present local pain, increased tendon volume, accumulation of inflammatory liquid.

How is it diagnosed?

It is recommended to consult a health care professional to establish a reliable diagnosis: the physiotherapist and the doctor can use the signs and symptoms (loss of strength, etc.) to suspect of an Achilles tendinopathy. Also, an X-ray will only show a calcification in the tendon (healthy tendons will not show). MRIs are used if a ruptured tendon is suspected or if signs persist.

Treatment

Although healing is difficult, there are physiotherapy methods to improve symptoms:
- Treat muscles: stretching the sural triceps together with the entire posterior chain to prevent complications. The physiotherapist can use techniques like classic stretching, but also functional massage, fibrolysis, dry needling. He might also apply KinesioTaping to decrease tension.
- Treating the tendon directly with techniques such as cyriax, EPI.
- Eccentric training has also proved its advantages in the recovery: they are exercises using the muscle in the opposite direction to its function. For example, for the sural triceps exercise one would do ankle dorsiflexion on a step controlling the descent of the foot. It is generally recommended to do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions each day.

There are also things the patient should respect in his daily life:
- Be cautious with the use of heel-pads: they cause shortening of the sural triceps muscles, the main cause of tendinopathy.
- Modify nutrition if necessary, referring to the right professional.

Finally, one can also use 3TOOL. It is an ergonomic, suitable and effective tool that can be combined with the mentioned conventional techniques for the treatment of tendinopathy and pain management:

- The flat part will allow one to perform massage to relax the tendon and remove tension.
- The pointy part will be used as if we wanted to perform a deep massage with our fingers: the advantage is that the physiotherapist will do it ergonomically, without his hands suffering.

The patient himself can also use 3TOOL at home, which is a real advantage.

3TOOL is the result of three years of collaboration between engineers of the HOWlab group of the University of Zaragoza and physiotherapists from the "Physiotherapy Valdespartera" company.

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