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Achilles Tendon Rupture


When it happens, you know it! The sound is unforgettable: Pop, snap, pow! Then the incredible pain in the back of the ankle and you can't walk. Your Achilles Tendon has ruptured!

The Achilles Tendon is a very thick and strong tendon that is responsible for moving your ankle every time you walk. When it's injured, you can't push off well with your toes. The tendon usually ruptures (partially or completely) when it is forcefully overstretched.

 

Causes

Almost always, Achilles Tendon injuries occur over a period of time and because of overuse. Particular activities or improper gait cycles (walking dynamics) can contribute to overuse. Typical causes are:
  • Overuse
  • Improper warm-ups or stretching habits
  • Jogging or running on hills or hard surfaces excessively
  • Overly tight or weak calf muscles
  • Dropped arches (flat-footed)
  • Wearing improperly fitted or worn-out shoes

Symptoms

After the initial Pop or Snap, sharp pain and swelling in the back of the heel begins, and you can't move your foot or walk. The less ability you have to move your foot, the worse the rupture is. A mild partial rupture is very painful, yet still allows you to have some toe downward motion in the ankle. A complete rupture won't allow such motion because the tendon is completely severed. Pain with this injury can be severe and include swelling.

Whether the tear is partial or complete, a doctor's examination is usually mandatory for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosis

Examination of the injury by your doctor may result in the need for an MRI of the ankle to determine the severity of tendon rupture.

  • Surgery is Necessary: Complete Achilles Tendon Ruptures require surgery. The two ends of the tendon are sewn together. About 6-12 weeks of healing time is necessary which includes wearing a walking boot or brace. Significant physical therapy may be necessary to rehabilitate not only the ankle but also the leg because you won't be using the leg muscles that you usually do when walking without a boot.

    Surgery is usually very effective for this condition and is usually recommended even with partial tears, especially if the individual is extremely active in sports or other activities. The surgical repair may be stronger in the long run and may not re-rupture as easily as a tendon that heals on its own.

     

  • Surgery is Not Necessary: If the Achilles Tendon is partially ruptured and your doctor feels it can heal on its own, then there are several things you can do at home.

Treatment

1. Wear a walking boot to allow your Achilles Tendon to remain relatively unused while healing.

2. Ice treatment to the heel, which reduces swelling and pain, is vital.

3. A few days after the tear has healed, begin very gentle range of motion exercises (moving your foot downward and upward). This will help the fibers heal in a more “aligned” position and will discourage shortening of the fibers. More aggressive exercise and strengthening should occur after several weeks of healing. For the best results, supervision by a qualified therapist is recommended.


***The information, including opinions and recommendations, contained in this Web site is for general educational purposes only. Such information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. No one should act upon any information on this Web site without first seeking medical advice from a qualified medical physician with whom they have a confidential doctor/patient relationship.***

Author: Dr. Tracy A. Norris D.C., C.C.E.P.
Chiropractic Physician
Certified Chiropractic Extremity Practitioner

 


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