• Luke Nelson

How long does Achilles tendinopathy take to get better?

"How long is this going to take?" is the BIG question a lot of those suffering from Achilles tendinopathy want to know the answer to. In this blog we discuss what to expect with Achilles tendinopathy.

The answer is, as always, it depends. Whilst some can see rapid improvement within 3 months, for a lot of those with Achilles tendinopathy, it can take 3-6 months to see improvement, with full pain resolution sometimes taking over 1 year (Silbernagel et al. 2007). In fact, in a study by Silbernagel, only 65% were totally symptom free at 5yrs (Silbernagel et al. 2011).


Now this might seem a bit depressing for those suffering with this condition, but whilst SYMPTOMS may persist for sometime, getting back to the things you love doing (i.e. running, football) without the pain impeding your performance, will often take much less time. The good news is you do NOT need to take a year off running, it just means that for a period of time, whilst rehabilitating, there may be some discomfort whilst running, but it's a manageable discomfort.

"Full recovery relies heavily on consistent, ongoing self management"

Because this is often a long process, it is important for anyone suffering with Achilles tendinopathy (and tendinopathy in general really) to stay the course, and be consistent with following the advice of their health practitioner. This is rarely a condition where doing a couple of exercises for a few weeks will sort it out.


“Slow to settle but quick to aggravate”

Flare ups will likely happen along the road to recovery, but you should be provided with advice & support by your health practitioner on what to do in these instances. In Silbernagel's 5 year study, 15% experienced a recurrence of symptoms. (Silbernagel, Brorsson et al. 2011)


We advise our patients that instead of comparing their pain "day to day", they take a longer term view, and compare "week to week" (thanks to Pete Malliaras for this one). Said another way, don't look for progress by comparing what your pain feels like today versus yesterday, look at the week as an average, and compare that to the previous week.


Symptomatic recovery does NOT ensure full recovery of muscle-tendon function

Another interesting finding from Silbernagel's research was that of those who achieved full symptomatic recovery, only 25% achieved full recovery of the muscle-tendon function as measured by a test battery. (Silbernagel, Thomee et al. 2007) So this means that whilst you might be free of pain, it doesn’t guarantee that the full function of the tendon has been restored.

So in conclusion, whilst Achilles tendinopathy can take a while to recover, it need not stop you from doing what you love. For help with your Achilles tendon pain, please don’t hesitate to contact us at www.healthhp.com.au



References

  • Silbernagel, K. G., R. Thomee, B. I. Eriksson and J. Karlsson (2007). "Continued sports activity, using a pain-monitoring model, during rehabilitation in patients with Achilles tendinopathy: a randomized controlled study." Am J Sports Med 35(6): 897-906.

  • Silbernagel, K. G., R. Thomee, B. I. Eriksson and J. Karlsson (2007). "Full symptomatic recovery does not ensure full recovery of muscle-tendon function in patients with Achilles tendinopathy." Br J Sports Med 41(4): 276-280; discussion 280.

  • Silbernagel, K. G., A. Brorsson and M. Lundberg (2011). "The majority of patients with Achilles tendinopathy recover fully when treated with exercise alone: a 5-year follow-up." Am J Sports Med 39(3): 607-613.

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