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The Achilles tendon is a connective tissue (fibrous cord) that attaches your calf muscles of your heel bone. If this fibrous cord is outstretched, it can be torn partially or completely ruptured causing sharp pain in the back of your ankle or could even affect your ability to walk properly. This injury commonly occurs during activities that involve sudden, forceful movements or overstretching of the tendon. So, how is Achilles tendon rupture treated? What causes it and how to prevent it? Let’s dive deep to have a better insight into Achilles tendon rupture and its other facets. 

What Is Achilles Tendon Rupture?

Achilles tendon is a thick-elastic tissue band that attaches your calf muscle to the heel bone. In fact, it is the largest tendon in the body that is equipped to handle stress. In some cases, this tendon gets torn or ruptured due to extreme stress or pressure applied during an intense activity such as a sudden start, stop or fall.  A ruptured Achilles tendon can be repaired only through surgery. You may consult Experienced Orthopedic Surgeons to know more about managing an Achilles tendon rupture.

What Causes Achilles Tendon Rupture?

Achilles tendon rupture can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Sudden, Forceful Movements: The most common cause of Achilles tendon rupture is a sudden, forceful movement that puts excessive stress on the tendon. This often occurs during activities such as jumping, pivoting, or accelerating quickly, especially if the tendon is already weakened or compromised.
  • Tendon Degeneration: Chronic degeneration or weakening of the Achilles tendon over time can make it more prone to rupture. This can be caused by repetitive stress or overuse of the tendon, improper training techniques, inadequate rest and recovery, or underlying conditions such as tendinopathy or tendinitis.
  • Previous Tendon Injuries or Conditions: Individuals who have previously experienced Achilles tendon injuries or conditions, such as tendonitis or tendinosis, may have weakened or damaged tendons that are more susceptible to rupture.
  • Age and Gender: Achilles tendon ruptures are more common in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50, and they occur more frequently in men than in women. The exact reasons for these demographic patterns are not fully understood, but it may be related to decreased tendon elasticity and blood supply with age.
  • Poor Flexibility and Strength: Tight calf muscles and a lack of flexibility in the ankle joint can put increased stress on the Achilles tendon, increasing the risk of rupture. Similarly, weak calf muscles may not provide adequate support to the tendon during physical activities.

It's important to note that not all Achilles tendon ruptures can be attributed to a single cause, and often a combination of factors may contribute to the injury. 

What are the Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Rupture?

A ruptured Achilles tendon can cause mild to severe symptoms depending on the extent of the injury. The most common symptom is a snapping sound behind the ankle accompanied by a sudden giveaway or collapse of the affected leg. Here are some other symptoms of Achilles tendon rupture:

  • A sharp or stabbing pain in the back of the lower leg or ankle region at the time of injury
  • Swelling around the ankle or along the course of the tendon can occur soon after the injury.
  • Walking or bearing weight on the affected leg may be challenging or impossible due to the pain, weakness, and instability
  • Decrease in the range of motion at the ankle joint or difficulty bending the foot downwards
  •  In some cases, a gap or defect may be felt along the course of the Achilles tendon. 

How is Achilles Tendon Rupture Diagnosed?

Initially, a doctor will examine your foot for signs of swelling and tenderness. To have a better insight into your condition, he/she may request that you do the following. 

  • Physical Examination: You will be made to kneel on a chair with your feet hanging over the edge of the chair. The doctor will squeeze your calf muscle to check if your foot flexes. If it doesn’t, it may be a sign of a ruptured Achilles tendon. 
  • Imagining Tests: To understand the extent of your ruptured or torn Achilles tendon, a doctor may recommend getting an ultrasound or MRI scan that helps give a clear image of the body's tissues. 

How is Achilles Tendon Rupture Treated?

The treatment for a torn Achilles tendon depends on the patient’s age, the severity of the tear, and the activity level that caused such a condition. There are two options to treat Achilles tendon rupture i.e., using surgery or non-surgical techniques. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Non-Surgical Approach:

  • The leg is placed in a cast, walking boot, or brace that keeps the ankle fixed in a slightly flexed position to allow the torn ends of the tendon to heal and reconnect naturally.
  • Over-the-counter or prescribed pain medications may be recommended to manage pain and discomfort during the healing process.
  • Physical therapy can help restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the calf muscles and ankle joints through targeted exercises and stretches.

2. Surgery:

Surgical treatment is often recommended for younger, more active individuals, and for cases where non-surgical treatment has not been successful.

  • You will be administered with general/spinal anesthesia. 
  •  The surgical procedure typically involves making an incision over the torn tendon and reattaching the ends using stitches, sutures, or other techniques. 
  • The specific surgical technique may vary based on the surgeon's preference and the individual's condition.
  • After surgery, the foot and ankle are immobilized using a cast, walking boot, or brace for a period of time. 
  • Weight-bearing and movement of the foot are gradually introduced as directed by the surgeon. 
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises are essential to regain strength, flexibility, and functional mobility.

NOTE: If you are getting a minimally invasive procedure for your damaged Achilles tendon, the surgeon would make several tiny incisions, inserting a tiny camera with a light at its top to repair or extract the damaged tendon.

How to Prevent Achilles Tendon Rupture?

Achilles tendon rupture cannot be prevented, instead, you can reduce the risk of the injury. Here are some tips for preventing Achilles tendon rupture:

  • Regularly engage in exercises that target the calf muscles, such as calf raises or heel drops. 
  • Avoid sudden, intense increases in physical activity that can put excessive stress on the Achilles tendon. 
  • Prior to engaging in physical activities, warm up your muscles with light aerobic exercise and perform dynamic stretches.
  • Use shoes that provide proper support and cushioning for your feet, especially during physical activities.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and maintaining healthy body weight. This can help improve overall tendon health and reduce the risk of injuries.

Why Choose Medfin?

Surgery can be a daunting aspect, and feeling anxious is absolutely normal. The massive amount of information you can get from the internet may confuse you even more. This is where Medfin can help. Leave us the hefty task of finding the best hospital, the finest doctor, and the latest procedure at the lowest cost. Let us take charge while you sit back and focus on your health and recovery. Think surgery! Think Medfin! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Medfin offers the latest surgical procedures to ensure that you recover as fast as possible in the least painful way possible.

It takes 4-6 months to completely recover from Achilles tendon rupture surgery. You will be assigned a physical therapist who can help rebuild mobility in your calf muscles and repaired tendon. 

An Achilles tendon repair surgery takes anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and is carried out on an outpatient basis. This means you can return home the same day. All you can expect after surgery is that a cast will be placed over the back of your leg extending to your toes. This will ensure that your foot is positioned rightly.

The healing process for an Achilles tendon rupture after surgery can be challenging and typically requires a significant amount of time and rehabilitation. However, with appropriate treatment and adherence to the rehabilitation plan, most individuals can achieve a successful recovery.

Achilles tendon weakens as a result of age-related degeneration, repetitive activities or overtraining without allowing sufficient rest and recovery, or a sudden and significant increase in physical activity or intensity, especially without proper conditioning. It's important to note that multiple factors can interact and contribute to Achilles tendon weakness. 

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