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Things to Know about Achilles Tendon Ruptures

The Achilles tendon is a strong fibrous cord that helps connect the muscles in the back of your calf to the heel bone. This tendon helps in pointing your foot downward, rising on your toes, and pushing off your foot when walking. Walking highly relies on a working Achilles tendon. An Achilles tendon rupture happens when this cord is overstretched, which can cause it to tear partially or completely. If this happens, you’ll feel sudden snap, immediately followed by a sharp pain in the back of the lower leg, likely in the ankle. It’s highly likely that you won’t be able to walk properly afterwards.

Symptoms include severe pain and swelling near the heel, inability to bend your foot down, or push off when walking, inability to stand on your toes on the injured leg, and a popping sound when the injury happens.

Causes

Achilles tendon ruptures are often caused by a severe and sudden increase of stress on your Achilles tendon, this can include increasing the intensity of participation in sports, especially those that involve jumping. Ruptures can also be caused by falling from a height, or stepping into a hole.

Typical Treatment

Treating a ruptured Achilles tendon largely varies on the details of the person injured. Age, activity level, and severity of your injury are the factors that are looked at when determining what treatment should be used. Generally, younger patients who are active usually choose surgery to completely repair the tendon. On the other hand, older people usually choose non surgical treatment. Studies show that both are fairly equal in their effectiveness of improving the injured tendon.

Nonsurgical treatment generally involves wearing a cast with wedges that will aid in elevating your heal, taking the job/pressure off the torn tendon in order to let it heat. This avoids any risks associated with surgery, like the possibility of an infections. The downside is that the likelihood of a re-rupture is significantly higher with the nonsurgical approach, and recovery time is much longer. Should a re-rupture happen, doing a surgical repair is much more difficult.

The surgery approach involves an incision on the back of the lower leg, used to allow stitching the torn tendon together. Other tendons may be used to reinforce and support the affected tendon.

After either non surgical or surgical treatment, a rehabilitation program is the next step. This involves physical therapy exercises that help in strengthening your Achilles tendon and supporting leg muscles. Time of recovery until you are able to return to your former level of activity is generally four to six months.

How to Prevent it

You can participate in your prevention of suffering from a torn Achilles tendon by making sure to stretch and strengthen your calf muscles, varying your exercises from high impact sports to low impact sports, choosing running surfaces carefully, and increasing the intensity of your training slowly, no more than 10% each week. By following these tips you’ll be sure to avoid a painful Achilles tendon rupture.