ACHILLES TENDON RUPTURE
What Is Achilles Tendon Rupture?
A tendon is a band of tough tissue that usually connects muscle to bone. The Achilles tendon is the tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel. Achilles tendon rupture is a common injury of this tendon. It can happen at any age but most often occurs in 40- to 50-year-old men who engage in athletic activities after a long hiatus from exercise.
What Causes Achilles Tendon Rupture?
The tendon can rupture or tear partially or completely by jumping, forcefully bending the foot toward the shin, or receiving a direct hit to the area. Certain medications such as quinolone antibiotics can increase the risk of tendon rupture.
What Are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Rupture?
The most common symptom is stabbing pain in the lower calf at the time of injury.
Walking without pain is often impossible, especially when trying to push off the toe. Swelling occurs, and calf muscles may appear bunched up. Standing on tiptoe of the injured foot may also be impossible.
How Is Achilles Tendon Rupture Diagnosed?
The health care provider uses a history and physical examination. The health care provider will also do a Thompson test, or squeeze test. With a normal or partially torn tendon, squeezing calf muscles causes the ankle to flex. With an Achilles tendon rupture, this squeezing doesn’t produce the ankle motion.
How Is Achilles Tendon Rupture Treated?
The rupture is sometimes treated with casts but most commonly surgery is used. After surgery, the foot is immobilized with casts in different positions. The health care provider will probably suggest using a heel lift or high-heeled shoe for a certain period after the casts are removed.
If the ends of the tendon can reattach without surgery, your health care provider may suggest a cast for 10 to 12 weeks, with two cast changes, and then use of a heel lift.
Recovery is slow and may take up to 6 months, but with exercise and physical therapy, most people recover completely.
DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Achilles Tendon Rupture:
- DO take pain medicines as prescribed.
- DO protect your cast. It is critical to protect the tendon until it has a chance to heal.
- DO follow physical therapy and exercise instructions to recover muscle strength and range of motion at the ankle.
- DO use proper conditioning to prevent another tendon injury. If you have a partial tear, you must follow your rehabilitation program exactly. A complete rupture is possible if the tendon is stressed too much.
- DO call your health care provider if you damage your cast or have another injury.
- DO call your health care provider if you have increasing pain in the calf, cannot rise onto tiptoe or walk, or have increased swelling at the injury site.
- DON’T remove or damage your cast. If you tear the repair, treatment starts over again, which will prolong time for complete healing.
- DON’T do anything that will cause excessive force on the tendon until healing is complete.
- DON’T have cortisone or steroid injections around the Achilles tendon. Such injections have a significant risk for tendon rupture.
Contact the following sources:
- American Academy of Family Physicians
- American Medical Association