John, a 35-year-old basketball player, ruptured his Achilles tendon during a game. He had surgery and was put in a cast for 6 weeks. After physical therapy, he was able to walk without pain and play basketball again.
Here are some tips for recovering from an Achilles tendon rupture:
- Get surgery as soon as possible.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.
- Be patient.
With patience and hard work, you can recover from an Achilles tendon rupture and get back to doing the things you love.
What is the Achilles Tendon?
A ruptured Achilles tendon is an injury that happens in the back of your lower leg. It usually happens to people who play sports for fun, but anyone can get it.
The Achilles tendon is a strong, flexible cord that connects the muscles in the back of your leg to the heel bone. If you overstretch your Achilles tendon, it can either break all the way or just in parts.
If your Achilles tendon tears, you might hear a pop and feel a sharp pain in the back of your ankle and lower leg right away. This pain will probably make it hard for you to walk properly. Most of the time, surgery is needed to fix the tear. Many people, though, don’t need surgery because other treatments work just as well.
What is an Achilles Tendon Rupture?
A full or partial tear in the Achilles tendon happens when the tendon is stretched beyond its limits. When you jump or turn quickly, or speed up quickly when you run, you can overstretch the tendon and cause it to tear. A tendon injury can also happen when someone trips or falls.
Achilles tendon ruptures usually happen to “weekend warriors,” or middle-aged people who play sports on the weekends. Less often, disease or medicine, like steroids or some antibiotics, can weaken the tendon and make it more likely to tear.
Signs and Symptoms
When the Achilles tendon and the Accessory Navicular Syndrome are torn, a person may feel one or more of the following:
- Pain in the back of the ankle or leg that comes on suddenly and feels like a kick or stab. The pain usually goes away and becomes a dull ache.
- A popping or breaking feeling
- Back of the leg swelling between the heel and calf
- Walking is hard, especially going up or down stairs or hills, and getting up on your toes is hard.
If you have these signs, you need to see a doctor right away to stop more serious problems.
- Rest. Don’t walk on the hurt foot and ankle because it will hurt or cause more damage.
- Ice. Use a thin towel wrapped around a bag of ice to reduce pain and swelling. Do not put ice straight on your skin.
- Compression. Wrap a tight wrap around the foot and ankle to stop the swelling from getting worse.
- Elevation. Keep the leg raised to stop the swelling from getting worse. It should be at heart level or a little bit above.
When figuring out how to treat a ruptured Achilles tendon, the foot and ankle surgeon will ask questions about how and when the injury happened and if the patient has ever hurt the tendon before or had similar symptoms. The surgeon will look at the foot and ankle and feel the tendon to see if there is a break. The healthy foot and ankle will be used to measure the range of motion and muscle strength of the damaged foot and ankle. If the Achilles tendon is torn, the person won’t be able to push down as hard (like on a gas pedal) and will have trouble getting up on their toes.
A ruptured Achilles tendon is usually easy to figure out, and this type of check is a good way to do that. In some cases, though, the operator may order an MRI or other advanced imaging tests.
There are both surgery and non-surgical ways to treat a ruptured Achilles tendon. The seriousness of the tear, the patient’s health, and how active they are all play a role in deciding whether surgery or non-surgical care is best.
Non-surgical care, which is usually linked to a higher rate of re-rupture, is chosen for small tears, less busy patients, and people who can’t have surgery because of health problems. The torn tendon can heal without surgery by using a cast, walking boot, or brace to limit movement and let the tendon heal.
Surgery could have important benefits. In addition to making it less likely that the Achilles tendon will tear again, surgery often makes the patient’s push-off strength and muscle function, and movement of the ankle better.
Various surgery methods are available to fix the injury. The doctor will choose the treatment that will work best for the patient.
After surgery, the foot and ankle are put in a cast or walking boot to keep them from moving. The surgeon will decide when the person can start putting weight on the leg.
After surgery, problems can happen, like the wound not closing well, the tendon tearing again, or nerve pain.
Whether you have surgery or not to fix a torn Achilles tendon, physical training is an important part of the healing process. In physical therapy, you do tasks that build your muscles and improve your foot and ankle’s range of motion.