Achilles Tendon Rupture
The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. A rupture occurs when there is a tearing or separation of the tendon fibers. An Achilles heel rupture leads to loss of normal function and can be caused by:
Achilles Tendon Rupture
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- Overworking an inflamed tendon
- Injury from an accident or fall
Are You at Risk for a Ruptured Tendon?
Factors that increase your chance of rupturing your Achilles tendon include:
- Achilles tendinopathy
- Recent increase in activity level
- Weak or inflexible calf muscles
- Previous Achilles tendon rupture
- Involvement in sports that involve running, jumping, twisting, or lunging
- Improper footwear
- Certain medications, such as quinolone antibiotics or corticosteroids, which weaken the tendon
- Collagen vascular diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma
Symptoms of an Achilles Tendon Rupture
Symptoms may include:
- Popping or snapping noise when injury occurs
- Sudden, extreme pain at back of heel
- Swelling near your heel
- Inability to push off from ball of foot
- Inability to walk on affected leg
Diagnosis of a Achilles Tendon Rupture
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
Achilles Tendon Rupture Treatment
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options may include the one or more of the following:
You'll need time to heal. RICE and immediate medical care are key parts of treatment:
- Rest — Activities will need to be restricted.
- Ice — Ice therapy may help relieve swelling.
- Compression — Compression bandages can provide gentle pressure to help move fluids out of the area.
- Elevation — Elevate the area to help fluids drain out or prevent fluids from building up.
Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medication to reduce pain or crutches to protect the healing tendon.
To help manage pain, your doctor may recommend:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs)
- Prescription pain relievers
Surgery is the most common treatment for this condition. The doctor makes an incision in the lower leg and sews the tendon back together. A cast , splint, walking boot or brace is worn for 6-8 weeks. One of the benefits of surgery is that it lowers the risk of re-rupturing the tendon. Surgery may also be a better option if you are very athletic.
The other option is to allow your tendon to heal without surgery. In this case, you also need to wear a cast, splint, walking boot, or brace for 6-8 weeks. You also may have different exercises to do. If you are less active or have a chronic illness that prevents surgery, this option may be better for you.
Rehab for a Ruptured Tendon
During rehabilitation, you will:
- Begin with range-of-motion exercise. Often these will focus on the body as a whole.
- Progress to weight-bearing exercises using support devices, such as a walker or crutches.
Most people can return to normal activity in 4-6 months.
Prevent Rupturing Your Achilles Tendon
To help reduce your chance of getting Achilles tendon rupture, take the following steps:
- Do warm-up exercises before an activity. Cool down with ice to the area.
- Wear proper footwear. Consider heel lifts.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Rest if you feel pain during an activity. Avoid activities that cause pain.
- Change your routine. Switch between high-impact activities and low-impact activities.
- Strengthen your calf muscle with exercises.
These steps can also reduce your chance of repeat injury.
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.