Do Corticosteroids Really Help with Achilles Tendinopathy?

Injectible medicines such as corticosteroids are a common treatment for some tendon injuries. But the use of corticosteroids for treating Achilles tendinopathy is controversial. It is not a treatment that all doctors recommend. There is a risk of damaging the tendon further especially if not administered properly.

Achilles Tendinopathy

You use Achilles tendon when you walk, run, jump, or push up on your toes. Repetitive and intense strain on the Achilles tendon can cause Achilles tendinopathy. Tendinopathy is a term used to describe overuse. Therefore, Achilles tendinopathy refers to overuse condition in the Achilles area.

The Achilles tendon connects calf muscles to the heel bone.  For people taking sports, especially running, they are at risk of experiencing painful and stiff Achilles tendons. However, the risk is just the same in inactive people. They can also experience tendinopathy due to the imbalance between the damage and repair processes in the tendon. Painful Achilles tendons are often disabling and can take a long time to get better.

The common symptom of Achilles tendinopathy is pain, usually at the back of your ankle. You may also have stiffness. Usually, it gets worse in the morning or after a long period of inactivity.

When you exercise, the pain may occur when you start and after you finish the activity, although the pain goes away while you exercise. Over time, as the injury worsens, you may also experience pain while exercising and it may become constant. There may be swelling and you may feel tenderness when you touch your Achilles tendon.

Corticosteroids for Achilles Tendinopathy

Corticosteroids are used to help reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling for many different conditions. However, there is insufficient evidence that can determine the benefits of any injection for Achilles tendinopathy and they are not recommended for this condition. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they cannot be used, but the risk of complications when using these treatments is high.

Some doctors believe that the injectable treatments should never be administered in the area around the Achilles tendon. Also administering the injection directly into the tendon can cause complications. In an animal study, the injection in the tendon reduced tendon strength, suggesting that rupture may be a potential complication.

An inflammation is necessary for healing process in the damaged tissue. But the use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids, counters the effect of inflammation and hinders the natural healing process.

Conservative Treatments for Achilles Tendinopathy

Achilles tendinopathy can be effectively treated by the primary care practitioner. There are many simple and easily applied conservative treatment options that can relieve most tendon pain.

Here are some conservative treatments that can be used for Achilles tendinopathy:

  • Stretching and flexibility exercises to help your tendon heal without shrinking and causing chronic pain
  • Strengthening exercises to help regain strength that may have been lost while the tendon was recovering and to help protect from another injury
  • Ultrasound heat therapy to improve blood circulation, helping with the healing process
  • Deep massage to improve flexibility and blood circulation in the lower leg as well as to improve further injury

You can rely on our Perth physiotherapists to help you recover using conservative treatments and support you on your way to complete healing. Call us today at 9272 7359!