Ruptured Achilles Tendons

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Acute Rupture of Achilles

The Achilles tendon is the strong band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel and helps you point your foot downward and push off as you walk. If stretched too far, the tendon can tear (rupture), causing severe pain in the ankle and lower leg that can make it difficult or impossible to walk. An Achilles tendon rupture often occurs as a result of repeated stress on the tendon and may be partial or complete, depending on the severity of the injury.

Injuries to the Achilles tendon are quite common and they can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Overuse
  • Poor stretching habits
  • Tight or weak calf muscles
  • Flat feet
  • Wearing shoes that do not fit properly
  • Engaging in physical activity after a long break

After an Achilles tendon rupture, patients often experience severe pain and swelling and are unable to walk normally. You may hear a popping or snapping sound as the rupture occurs. The symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, such as bursitis and tendonitis, so it is important to seek prompt medical attention to determine the correct diagnosis of your condition.

Treatment for an Achilles tendon rupture depends on the severity of the condition. Nonsurgical treatment is reserved for the mildest of cases or for patients who lead a sedentary life. Those cases may only require a cast or walking boot for several weeks, although the risk of a recurring rupture is higher. Patients can help prevent an Achilles tendon injury by stretching the tendon and nearby muscles before participating in physical activity.

Most Achilles tendon injuries require surgery to reattach the tendon and allow the patient to resume normal foot function. Until surgery is performed, patients will likely suffer from recurring tears.

Chronic Rupture of Achilles

When an Achilles tendon rupture is not repaired, it can become a chronic problem. The tears keep recurring upon any use of the foot, so even the mildest form of activity such as walking can produce pain and inflammation.

Once an Achilles tendon injury has become chronic, it generally requires surgery to reattach the tendon and allow the patient to resume normal foot function. Until surgery is performed, patients will likely continue to suffer from persistent discomfort.

During the Achilles tendon repair procedure, an incision is made along the back of the ankle to access the tendon. The torn ends are then reattached using strong sutures that are placed on both ends. The sutures are tied together and the incision is then closed.

After surgery, patients will need to undergo six to eight weeks of physical therapy while the foot heals in a walking boot or cast. The foot may be positioned differently within the cast as healing progresses to maximize movement.

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