An Achilles tendon rupture is a complete or partial tear that occurs when the tendon is stretched beyond its capacity. A tendon is a band of tissue that connects a muscle to a bone. The Achilles tendon runs down the back of the lower leg and connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Also called the “heel cord,” the Achilles tendon facilitates walking by helping to raise the heel off the ground.
Forceful jumping or pivoting, or sudden accelerations of running, can overstretch the tendon and cause a tear. An injury to the tendon can also result from falling or tripping.
Achilles tendon ruptures are most often seen in “weekend warriors” – typically, middle-aged people participating in sports in their spare time. Less commonly, illness or medications, such as steroids or certain antibiotics, may weaken the tendon and contribute to ruptures.
A person with a ruptured Achilles tendon may experience one or more of the following:
These symptoms require prompt medical attention to prevent further damage. Until the patient is able to see a doctor, the “R.I.C.E.” method should be used. This involves:
In diagnosing an Achilles tendon rupture, our team will ask questions about how and when the injury occurred and whether you have previously injured the tendon or experienced similar symptoms. We will also examine the foot and ankle, feeling for a defect in the tendon that suggests a tear.
The range of motion and muscle strength will be evaluated and compared to the uninjured foot and ankle. If the Achilles tendon is ruptured, you will have less strength in pushing down (as on a gas pedal) and will have difficulty rising on the toes.
When you have an ankle sprain, rehabilitation is crucial and it starts the moment your treatment begins. Our podiatrists may recommend one or more of the following nonsurgical treatment options:
Nonsurgical treatment, which is generally associated with a higher rate of re-rupture, is selected for minor ruptures, less active patients, and those with medical conditions that prevent them from undergoing surgery. Nonsurgical treatment involves the use of a cast, walking boot, or brace to restrict motion and allow the torn tendon to heal.
Surgery offers important potential benefits. Besides decreasing the likelihood of re-rupturing the Achilles tendon, surgery often increases the patient’s push-off strength and improves muscle function and movement of the ankle.
Various surgical techniques are available to repair the rupture. Our team will select the procedure best suited for you.
Following surgery, your foot and ankle are initially immobilized in a cast or walking boot. Our podiatrists will determine when you can begin weight-bearing.
Complications such as incision-healing difficulties, re-rupture of the tendon, or nerve pain can arise after surgery.
Whether an Achilles tendon rupture is treated nonsurgically or surgically, physical therapy is an important component of the healing process. Physical therapy involves exercises that strengthen the muscles and improve the range of motion of the foot and ankle.
If you suspect you may have ruptured your Achilles tendon, please give us a call at (360) 309-0804 to schedule an appointment with Peninsula Podiatry for evaluation and treatment recommendations.