Everything You Need to Know About Achilles Ruptures
Linking the calf muscles to the heel bone (calcaneus), the Achilles tendon is a strong band of tissue that helps with many essential foot movements. Even so, it’s still susceptible to injury, especially if you are fairly active and athletic. If you experience a complete or partial tear in this tendon, a foot and ankle doctor in Miami can give you an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatments. Here’s what you need to know about Achilles ruptures.
How Can You Tell If You Have an Achilles Rupture?
When a rupture of this tendon occurs, you might hear a “popping” sound. You’ll also likely notice sharp, immediate pain that’s felt in the back of the affected ankle and into your lower leg. It’s possible to have a mild tear or rupture with little or no symptoms. but it’s more common to experience the following issues with an Achilles rupture:
• Difficulty walking
• Swelling around the ankle and heel
• An inability to “push off” with the affected leg/foot when walking
• Pain that’s immediately intense when trying to place pressure on the affected foot
What Causes an Achilles Tendon to Tear or Rupture?
When properly functioning, the Achilles tendon helps with movements like pointing the foot downward and many other typical foot/ankle movements. It also provides support when you push off while walking, jogging, or running. It’s common for a rupture to occur above where the tendon is attached to the heel bone since this is where tissue is more susceptible to damage. A tear or rupture can occur for many different reasons, some of which could include:
• Repetitious foot/ankle movements, like what’s common when playing sports
• Intense pressure or stress
• Falling from a significant height and attempting to land on the feet
• Accidentally twisting or turning the foot excessively
• Attempting to stop a slip or fall when walking
• Tripping over something or falling into a hole
Excess weight, failure to stretch and warm up and a lack of proper form and technique when playing sports are among the risk factors that may contribute to an achilles rupture.
How Is a Ruptured Achilles Tendon Diagnosed?
Diagnosis usually involves a visual examination of the affected ankle and leg. Your ankle may also be gently touched to determine if there is tenderness around the Achilles tendon or a noticeable gap. You may also be asked about what you were doing when the injury occurred. The initial diagnosis could involve attempting to make foot/ankle movements as well. Image testing is sometimes done if there’s a need to positively confirm the injury or determine if other structures are affected.
What Are Your Non-Surgical Treatment Options?
Initial treatment for a ruptured Achilles tendon may involve limiting movement for a few weeks and using over-the-counter pain medications to allow the tendon to heal on its own if the tear isn’t severe. You may also be advised to use crutches to keep from placing pressure on the affected ankle.
While a non-surgical approach to treating an Achilles rupture does reduce some of the risks that go along with surgery, you may be more susceptible to re-injury. However, you may see results that matter most to you if you start rehabilitation efforts as soon as possible to help rebuild the strength of the affected tendon and nearby muscles.
When Should You Know About Surgery?
Athletic patients tend to prefer surgery for injuries of this nature since surgical correction often makes it easier to return to a pre-injury activity level. Since Dr. Hodgkins specializes in minimally invasive foot and ankle surgery, techniques that minimize risks as much as possible are often used. A minimally invasive approach to the surgery also reduces infection risks and increases your odds of enjoying a shorter recovery period.
The exact procedure recommended will depend on the extent of the damage to the tendon. Typically, surgery involves reattaching the torn ends of the damaged tendon. If minimally invasive techniques are used, several small incisions will be made instead of a larger single incision. In some cases, it may be necessary to reinforce other tendons after the Achilles rupture is repaired. Surgery is generally recommended under the following circumstances:
• You are younger and otherwise healthy
• You wish to return to an active lifestyle
What Happens Post-Surgery?
Regardless of whether you are treated surgically or non-surgically, the next step is rehabilitation. The goal with rehabilitation is to build up the strength of the Achilles tendon and supporting soft tissues in the ankle and leg. On average, it takes about 6-12 months to return to normal activities. It’s often advised that patients continue with strength training exercises to maintain ankle stability and flexibility.
How Can You Prevent Achilles Ruptures?
It’s not always possible to entirely prevent an Achilles tendon injury. This being said, you can reduce your risk of experiencing a painful rupture if you regularly stretch your calf muscles. It can also be helpful to properly stretch before getting active or playing sports.
If you are dealing with a painful Achilles tendon injury, Dr. Christopher Hodgkins is here to help. Visit The Ankle MD and you’ll benefit from personalized treatment provided by minimally invasive surgeon in Miami committed to helping you get back to your normal routine safely.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment.