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Three Treatment Programs for Chronic Achilles Tendinopathy Compared

A painful thickening of the Achilles' tendon is called a tendinopathy. This condition is a common cause of calf pain in many middle-aged recreational athletes. Effective treatment for the problem is under investigation.

In this study, 100 patents with chronic Achilles' tendinopathy were divided into three different treatment groups. The results of each treatment were compared. The first group performed eccentric muscle contractions. Eccentric refers to movement that lengthens a muscle from a shortened position.

The second group wore a brace called the AirHeel brace. This removable ankle brace was specifically made for patients with Achilles' tendinopathy. The AirHeel was worn during the patients' waking hours.

The third group was treated with a combination of eccentric exercise-training and the AirHeel brace. The authors outlined the progression of exercises used over a period of 12 weeks. The exercises were done with the knee straight and with the knee in a slightly bent position.

Patients were followed for one full year after the treatment ended. Results were measured by pain levels and function. Ultrasound studies were also done before and after treatment. The researchers compared tendon thickness and structure.

Any side effects of treatment such as tendon rupture, discomfort, or severe pain were recorded. Some patients reported pain during the exercises. Others had discomfort wearing the AirHeel due to a poor fit.

The authors could not find any difference in the results from the three groups. Patients in all three groups improved with less pain and increased function observed. This study did not support the theory that the AirHeel (alone or with exercise) helped the healing process. More study is needed to find an effective treatment for acute Achilles' tendinopathy.

Wolf Petersen, MD, et al. Chronic Achilles Tendinopathy. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. Octoer 2007. Vol. 35. No. 10. Pp. 1659-1667.


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