An Achilles tendon rupture is a tear or partial tear that can occur to the Achilles tendon. Made up of strong, fibrous cords, the Achilles tendon connects the muscle of the calf to the heel bone. This tendon aids in the movements of walking or raising the heel.
What are the causes and symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture?
Ruptures or tears to the Achilles tendon can occur due to overstretching. Tears can be partial or complete. Partial tears can also progress to become complete ruptures. Ruptures can occur in healthy and active individuals and are most common in those in their 30s and 40s. Many who rupture their Achilles tendon have no history of injury to the tendon. Ruptures to the Achilles tendon are often caused by sudden and forceful movements. These movements often occur in sports such as tennis, football, and basketball. Risk factors associated with an Achilles tendon rupture include obesity, overuse, experiencing a previous tendon rupture, changes in exercise intensity, poor flexibility, older age, poor fitting footwear, poor conditioning, or taking fluoroquinolone antibiotics or corticosteroids. Certain diseases and conditions may also increase risk such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney failure, thyroid disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, and diabetes. Symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture include hearing a popping sound when the injury occurs, pain and swelling in the heel area, difficulty walking, and difficulty rising up on the toes.
How are Achilles tendon ruptures diagnosed and treated?
Those who believe they may have ruptured their Achilles tendon should seek immediate medical attention. Patients may use the RICE method until they are able to see a doctor and can rest, ice, compress, and elevate the injured area. In order to diagnose an Achilles tendon rupture, a physician or allied health provider will conduct a physical exam and ask questions about when the injury occurred and whether the patient has previous tendon injuries. They will also assess range of motion and feel for a defect that can indicate a tear. In certain cases, an x-ray or MRI may be ordered in order to confirm diagnosis or determine that there are no additional injuries to the area that require treatment.
Treatment options may include non-surgical management, such as functional bracing, or surgical management, such as Achilles tendon repair. An orthopaedic surgeon can help decide which is the best option for you. Physical therapy will likely be prescribed, and the patient can expect to be able to return to normal activities within four to six months. Patients should follow their doctor and physical therapist’s advice to return to optimal mobility.