Achilles tendon ruptures generally occur while performing activities that require sudden changes in direction or jumping and landing.
Patients usually describe a sharp pain in the back of their leg as if they were “kicked or hit in the back of the leg with a tennis serve.” Patients will have some swelling in the heel region and if they can walk, it is usually quite painful.
Use your foot to point your toes downward– that’s the work of your Achilles tendon. You use it each and everyday to reach up on your toes or as you place each step when walking.
Most often a rupture will occur in a specific section of the foot- where the tendon meets and attached to the heel bone (precisely within 2 1/2 inches or about 6 centimeters). Because there is a lack of blood flow to this area, it’s more likely to rupture or heal quickly.
By putting sudden, or unexpected pressure on this area of the foot it causes the tendon to rupture. At Arizona Orthopedic Dr. Cory typically sees Achilles tendon ruptures from:
Acute Achilles tendon rupture is made through clinical examination after x-ray rules out fracture. A qualified orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon will also perform in office tests to diagnosis acute Achilles tendon rupture.
Achilles tendon ruptures can be treated non-operatively or operatively. Non-operative treatment often consists of immobilization, initially in a cast with the foot pointed. The cast is changed periodically and the foot slow dorsiflexed a bit more as each cast is applied. Through most of this process usually taking up to 3 months the patient is non-weight bearing.
Operative treatment involves making an incision and suturing together the torn tendon along with doing a tendon transfer. This enables the patient to weight bear two weeks after surgery and minimizes the potential for future rupture.
After an Achilles tendon repair surgery patients will be placed in a leg splint or cast to avoid putting pressure on the tendon. In order to stay active and mobile many patients use crutches, knee scooters, or walkers during the healing process.
After the pain and swelling have reduced from the surgery, typically two weeks, patients meet with the surgeon to remove stitches and assess the healing progress. Depending on your surgeon’s recommendations, from week two to six you may be allowed to move from the cast to a walking boot, or another cast if necessary.
At six weeks patients are able to remove the cast or walking boot. Your orthopedic surgeon may suggest Physical Therapy to restore the range of motion within the ankle. This will help to strengthen muscles within the leg, foot and ankle slowly while the tendon is fully healing.
A typical recovery for Achilles tendon rupture surgery is 6 months. However, depending on the severity of your rupture and how well the healing has progressed, it may be over a year for some patients to properly heal and restore full motion.