The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. A rupture occurs when there is a tearing or separation of the tendon fibers. An Achilles heel rupture leads to loss of normal function. Treatment depends on the severity of the rupture.
Achilles Tendon Rupture
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Achilles tendon rupture can be caused by: OveruseOverstretchingOverworking an inflamed tendonInjury from an accident or fall
Factors that increase your chance of getting Achilles tendon rupture include: Achilles tendinopathyRecent increase in activity levelWeak or inflexible calf musclesPrevious Achilles tendon ruptureInvolvement in sports that involve running, jumping, twisting, or lungingImproper footwearObesityCertain medications, such as quinolone antibiotics or corticosteroids, which weaken the tendon
Collagen vascular diseases, such as
Symptoms may include: Popping or snapping noise when injury occursSudden, extreme pain at back of heelSwelling near your heelInability to push off from ball of footInability to walk on affected leg
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include: MRIUltrasoundX-ray
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options may include the one or more of the following:
When you are injured, apply these steps right away and seek medical help: Stop your activity and stay off the injured foot.Apply an ice pack. Place a towel between the ice pack and your skin.Wrap your injured foot and ankle in elastic bandaging. Don't wrap the bandage too tight. It may cut off circulation.Elevate your foot above your heart.
To help manage pain, your doctor may recommend: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs)Prescription pain relievers
Surgery is the most common treatment for this condition. The doctor makes an incision in the lower leg and sews the tendon back together. A
, splint, walking boot, or brace is worn for 6-8 weeks. One of the benefits of surgery is that it lowers the risk of re-rupturing the tendon. Surgery may also be a better option if you are very athletic.
The other option is to allow your tendon to heal without surgery. In this case, you also need to wear a cast, splint, walking boot, or brace for 6-8 weeks. You also may have different exercises to do. If you are less active or have a chronic illness that prevents surgery, this option may be better for you.
During rehabilitation, you will:
. Often these will focus on the body as a whole.
Progress to weight-bearing exercises using support devices, such as a
Most people can return to normal activity in 4-6 months.
To help reduce your chance of getting Achilles tendon rupture, take the following steps: Do warm-up exercises before an activity. Cool down with ice to the area.Wear proper footwear. Consider heel lifts.
Rest if you feel pain during an activity. Avoid activities that cause pain.Change your routine. Switch between high-impact activities and low-impact activities.Strengthen your calf muscle with exercises.
These steps can also reduce your chance of repeat injury.
Maffulli, N. Current concepts review—rupture of the Achilles tendon.
van der Linden P, Sturkenboom C, Herings R, et al. Increased risk of Achilles tendon rupture with quinolone antibacterial use, especially in elderly patients taking oral corticosteroids.
Arch Intern Med
Last reviewed March 2013 by John C. Keel, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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