Achilles Tendon Rupture

What is Achilles Tendon Rupture?

There’s a strong, fibrous cord in our lower legs that connects our calf muscles with our heels. It’s called the “Achilles tendon”. It’s, in fact, the largest tendon in the human body. It’s also the most injured tendon. Overuse and injuries can cause partial tendon tears. A full-scale tear is medically known as Achilles tendon rupture. This painful injury can happen to anyone, be it a professional athlete or someone going about their everyday life. In most cases, tough physical activities cause this injury.

For example, if you pivot on your foot in an odd and fast way, your Achilles tendon can snap. What follows is hours of pain and swelling in the heel area. Injury victims are also unable to walk or bend their feet downward. Mild pain or stiffness in this region of the leg means you have a partial tear in your Achilles tendon. If the pain is severe and burning, it may be completely ruptured.

This condition can be classified into two categories –

· Insertional Achilles Tendinitis - Mainly impacts the part of the heel that meets the tendon. It causes severe pain in the lower region of the heel and can also cause bone spurs.

· Non-Insertional Achilles Tendinitis – The central regions of the tendon start swelling and breaking down. The fibers in these regions of the tendon start getting thicker and ultimately tear apart.

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There’s a strong, fibrous cord in our lower legs that connects our calf muscles with our heels. It’s called the “Achilles tendon.” It’s, in fact, the largest tendon in the human body. It’s also the most injured tendon. Overuse and injuries can cause partial tendon tears.

Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Rupture

The obvious symptom of this condition is pain and stiffness above the heel. Patients are unable to stretch their ankles or stand on their toes. In many cases, the fibers of the Achilles tendon heal on their own, and the pain becomes milder over time. Or, the pain keeps getting worse until the tendon ruptures, causing a snapping or popping noise.

These snapping or popping noises are common with these injuries. Some other symptoms of this condition:

· Sharp pain in the ankle

· Trouble climbing stairs

· Trouble walking or running

· Incapability to stand on toes

· Bruising and swelling in the heel

· Formation of visible depressions in the back of the calf muscles

· Persistent pain in the Achilles region

Patients who experience these pains/symptoms must seek immediate medical attention and have their Achilles tendons diagnosed. Or else, this condition almost always worsens with time.

Causes of Achilles Tendon Rupture

Nowadays, Achilles tendon tears and ruptures are typically related to injuries on sports fields. That’s because this tendon ruptures when an individual suddenly switches his or her movement. Let’s say your momentum is going forward, and then you suddenly decide to move backward. Your Achilles tendon experiences sudden pressure and may snap as a result. Athletes often perform this motion in sports like -

· Tennis

· Basketball

· Softball

· Baseball

· Football

· Dance

· Gymnastics

· Running

· Volleyball

When to See a Physiotherapist for Achilles Tendon Rupture?

Anyone who experiences the aforementioned symptoms should visit a licensed physiotherapist. Some patients attempt to treat their ruptures at home. Doing that for a short time is okay. Home remedies like soft stretching or placing ice cubes on the sorest area of the Achilles tendon to reduce swelling are great.

However, Achilles tendon injury victims often require pain-relief medicines to help with the unbelievable amounts of discomfort they experience. Avoiding such steps and overstressing the body can lead to unnecessary additional damage. That’s why visiting an experienced physiotherapist as quickly as possible to learn about Achilles tendon repair is vital.

Key Risks and Complications of Achilles Tendon Rupture

The main risk factor of Achilles tendon rupture is age. Most people (especially men) between the ages of 30 to 40 suffer from this condition. Since it’s impossible to stop the effects of aging, here are some easily avoidable risk factors:

· Sudden increases in physical activities.

· Exercising or participating in athletic activities with excessive intensity.

· Unexpectedly lengthening the duration of your physical activities.

· Formation of blood clots around the calf muscles and surrounding tendons.

· Not giving the feet adequate time to recover in-between demanding physical activities.

· Wearing incorrect footwear for long periods.

· Running or walking on uneven surfaces.

· Poor muscle flexibility due to other health conditions (e.g., tight calf muscles because of poor dehydration).

· Taking steroid injections in the feet.

· Obesity.

How to Prevent Getting Achilles Tendon Ruptures?

The risk of suffering from this injury varies with age. Generally, the older you are, the likelier your tendons will rupture. The shape of the patient’s feet and the intrinsic design of their calf muscles and tendons also play important roles. Some people are just born with faulty Achilles tendons. General health also plays a part.

If you’re someone who regularly stretches and exercises while following all safety protocols, you’re less likely to experience this condition. Healthy eating, stretching, and engaging in strength and flexibility exercises are all important steps that individuals can take to avoid this terrible injury.

Treatments for Achilles Tendon Rupture

People who suffer from this condition have two treatment options - surgical and non-surgical. Both treatment options are available after the physician or physiotherapist officially diagnoses the patient of partial or full tendon rupture.

· Non-surgical procedures include - wearing casts, using customized boots that point the toes down, wearing heel wedges, and using crutches.

· Surgical procedures include – traditional, open surgeries and semi-open surgeries (Percutaneous Achilles Repair System - PARS)

Related Conditions

Some other injuries that commonly occur in the Achilles tendon are Retrocalcaneal Bursitis, Achilles Tendinopathy, and Peritendinitis. Seeking expert medical attention for treating each of those injuries is highly important.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long is the recovery period?
After any type of tendon tear surgery, patients have to wear special walking boots or casts for six to twelve weeks. That’s how long it takes for the Achilles tendon to heal. Choosing the right mobility device increases the chances of faster recovery. Patients should expect to spend ten months before returning to normalcy.
2. What happens if I get an Achilles tendon repair surgery?
These one-day surgeries have very high success rates. Patients experience some pain after the surgery, but the recovery period is faster.
3. How to test whether I have a tear in my Achilles tendon?
Physicians conduct the “Thompson test” to verify tears in the tendon. Patients must not try out this testing process at home as it may worsen their conditions.

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