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
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
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 a 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.
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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.