Achilles tendinopathy is a painful condition commonly affecting the general and athletic population. It presents with localized pain, stiffness, and swelling in the midportion of the Achilles tendon. The physical stress placed on the tendon results in microtrauma, which leads to subsequent inflammation and degeneration. While it is not surprising that this condition affects the physically active, nearly one-third of Achilles tendinopathy cases occur in sedentary individuals. Etiology for this condition stems from a change in loading patterns and/or overuse of the tendon, resulting in microscopic tearing and degenerative changes. There are numerous causes contributing to the maladaptive response in these patients, such as mechanical, age-related, genetic, and vascular factors. The treatment for these patients is typically load management and eccentric strengthening of the gastrocnemius–soleus complex. Unfortunately, conservative treatment can lead to surgical intervention in up to 45% of cases. A relatively new phenomenon in the treatment of this condition is the use of autologous blood injections (ABI) and platelet-rich plasma injections (PRPI). This need for a less invasive treatment fostered more investigation into ABI and PRPI to treat these nonresponsive patients. However, the evidence concerning the effectiveness of these treatments in patients with Achilles tendinopathy has not been synthesized.
Focused Clinical Question:
In patients with Achilles tendinopathy, how do variations of ABI and PRPI compared with a placebo and/or eccentric training affect pain and function?
The authors are with the School of Physical Therapy & Athletic Training, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA.