Achilles Heel: Physiotherapy Logan

Achilles Heel 101: A Hero Message from the Gods?

What’s the story of Achilles Heel?

The legend of Achilles proclaims that he was submerged at birth into the river Styx by his mother Thetis, attempting to use the powers of the water to render him invincible in battle. This worked for most of his life, but it also brought about his undoing. The god Apollo witnessed Thetis holding her son by the heel and saw this area was not touched by the water from the river Styx. This allowed Apollo to find Achilles’ weakness – his heel! Hence how the term Achilles Heel became a reference to one’s point of weakness.

How is this relevant to Achilles tendon issues?

Mostly it isn’t, but it’s a great story!

The Achilles tendon is the body’s longest and strongest tendon. It’s a robust cable-like structure that attaches the muscles of the calf – the soleus and gastrocnemius – to the heel (calcaneal) bone and brings about the motion of pointing our toes or rising onto the balls of our feet when our feet are planted on the ground – going up on your tippy toes!

Tendinopathy or tendonitis occurs when the structure, and therefore the strength of the tendon, is diminished. This is usually because of an acute injury or more commonly overloading of the tendon due to increased workload. For example, a return to running or exercise, a change of shoes, or strenuous activity such as an impromptu bush or beach walk on soft sand or moving house. Because of its restricted blood supply and the tremendous stresses exerted on it, the Achilles tendon is vulnerable to injury despite its strength.

The increased load or injury leads to a disorganisation of the fibres within the tendon, much like the
fraying or wear that can occur to a cable and its individual strands over time.

Managing Tendinopathy and Tendonitis

The good news is that the Achilles Heel changes are reversible and respond well to the appropriate
management. The bad news is that it can take some time and effort, and as such, 100 days is often
given as the recovery time for tendon injuries.

Appropriate management consists of manual therapy and advice to elevate initial symptoms and
then strengthening exercises to drive the adaptation of the calf musculotendinous complex, to
better deal with the daily activities and increased load that you want to put through it.

Achilles Heel Treatments

Rice Therapy: Rest, Ice, Compression with a sports bandage, and Elevation (RICE) are the most common treatments for Achilles tendon injuries.

Heat Therapy: Bursitis near the Achilles tendon can be relieved by alternating ice and heat therapy.

Footwear: The Achilles tendon might be injured over time if you don’t wear shoes that are supportive and comfortable for your feet. Some splints and braces, as well as custom-made orthotics and heel lifts, can be beneficial.

Physical Therapy: Although reducing or adjusting activity is crucial, rehabilitating tendon disorders, especially when they are persistent, may require specific stretches and exercises.

Immobilization: Immobilization of the ankle joint is required for several moderate to severe Achilles tendon disorders. For several weeks, you may need to wear a special boot or a leg cast.

Achilles tendon surgery: A ruptured Achilles tendon can typically be reattached with surgery. Immobilization of the ankle is required for several weeks after surgery.


So unlike Achilles, this does not have to be your undoing and a better understanding of your injury and appropriate physiotherapy and exercise direction can get you back on the battlefield of life and have you outperforming the Greek gods!

If you need help with pain or immobility to get you moving again, or need a tailored exercise program, book in for your treatment now with one of our exercise, physio, or pain specialists via 1300 012 273 or head to our website and book a session at your nearest clinic.