Oct 21 , 2021
Tags: Achilles Tendon Rupture
An Achilles tendon rupture is a tear in the tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone.
And this injury is very common in those who play a lot of sport or exercise.
If you’ve injured your achilles tendon, you’ll definitely know, as you’ll find it difficult to walk, run, stand on your toes or climb stairs - basically anything that involves taking a step.
Let’s take a closer look at the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for achilles tendon rupture.
Achilles tendon rupture commonly occurs whilst playing sports where you need to forcefully push off from your foot, such as football, tennis, basketball or running.
But, it can also happen if you’ve accidentally fallen over and your foot is forced into an upwards pointing position, causing it to stretch over your tendon.
Although unlikely, the Achilles tendon can also rupture due to direct trauma, for instance a deep cut over the tendon.
Other factors that put you at risk are:
- Tendinopathy (overused tendon)
- Not warming up properly before exercise
- Over-exercising or increasing the intensity too quickly
- Existing health conditions, such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes
If you’ve ruptured your achilles tendon, it’s likely you’ll experience a sudden, sharp pain down the back of your leg.
Some people may even hear a snap or popping sound when it happens and eventually, the excruciating pain will settle into a dull ache.
Other symptoms include:
- Swelling in your calf, ankle or foot
- Difficulty walking
- Unable to put weight onto your leg
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible and start treatment.
When you visit your doctor, they will first ask you about your symptoms and how the injury happened.
Then, they will ask you to try and walk around or move your foot to see where the difficulties are.
In addition, they will examine your leg, ankle and heel to check for any bruising and swelling, as well as squeezing your calf muscle to check your foot’s movement.
Usually, this examination will help your doctor determine whether your achilles tendon has ruptured, but if there is any uncertainty, you may be advised to have an MRI scan.
Once confirmed, you’ll be referred to an orthopedic surgeon (a doctor specialising in muscles, bones and joints) for further assessment.
Achilles tendon rupture can be treated both surgically and non-surgically depending on the severity of the injury.
The type of treatment your doctor recommends will be based on a few different factors, including how old you are, your general health and activity levels.
While you wait for your treatment, you’ll usually be advised to wear a brace to protect the tendon from any further injury, as well as limit the amount of weight you place on the affected leg throughout this time.
If you’re elderly, have existing health problems or are not particularly active, it’s more likely your doctor will recommend non-surgical treatment.
In this case, it will involve wearing a cast or brace to support your lower leg as the tendon heals.
At the same time, you may be prescribed painkillers if you experience any discomfort.
If you’re advised to wear a cast, this will be from your knee down, and put on with your foot bent downwards. You may need to wear this for a few weeks until you’re able to move your foot into a neutral position, and you’ll be required to use crutches to help you move around.
On the other hand, if you’re advised to wear a brace, this is a rigid type of boot which fits from your knee down.
And because this can be adjusted, as you begin to walk and put weight on your leg, you can change the fit of the brace accordingly.
If you’re young, active or a professional athlete, your doctor may suggest surgery.
There are a few different techniques for surgical repair, but they all involve bringing the torn parts of your tendon back together.
Sometimes, this may be done through open surgery, where a cut is made into your ankle to fix the tendon.
Other times, it may be invasive surgery where the surgeon reaches the tendon through small holes.
Even though having surgical treatment makes it less likely for your tendon to rupture again in the future, there is a bigger chance of complications - including infections and issues with scar tissue.
Once the surgery is performed, you’ll be required to wear a cast to help the healing process.
How long it takes to recover from an Achilles tendon rupture will depend on whether you’ve had surgery or not.
Generally speaking, you can expect to return to normal activity, including low impact sports, within 4 to 6 months but for high impact sports like football, it can take a little longer.
Typically, most people will return to the type of activity they were doing before their injury, but if you play sport at professional level, you may find there are some limitations to what you can do.
In some cases, it can take even a year or longer to return back to your previous level of performance but your doctor and physiotherapist will be able to give you a more specific timeframe.
On the other hand, you may be required to take some time off work so you can rest and allow the tendon to properly heal.
Again, this will depend on the type of treatment you have and how mobile you were before, as well as considering the job role you’re in and if there are any restrictions in your workplace.
There’s not much you can do to prevent an Achilles tendon rupture, however you can minimise the risk by making sure you warm up properly and stretch before doing any form of physical activity. Plus, it’s important to build exercise up gradually so the tendon gets used to different movements.
For more information, please get in touch today.
In the meantime, take a look at our full range of comfortable shoes here.
You may also like: