Achilles Tendon Tear
What is an Achilles Tendon Tear?
An Achilles tendon tear, also known as an Achilles tendon rupture, happens when the Achilles tendon, the body’s largest tendon, partially or completely tears. This tendon connects the calf muscles – the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles – to the heel bone, or calcaneus. It plays a crucial role in activities like walking, running, and jumping.
Achilles tendon tears frequently occur in high intensity sports or activities that involve sudden, forceful movements of the foot and ankle. Such tears can happen when the tendon undergoes excessive stress or experiences a sudden, forceful contraction of the calf muscles.
What Causes an Achilles Tendon Tear?
There are various ways to tear your Achilles tendon, but commonly, these tears occur due to:
- Sudden, forceful movements: Quick and forceful movements, such as pushing off to start a sprint or jumping, can strain the Achilles tendon excessively.
- Overuse or repetitive stress: Chronic overuse or repetitive stress on the Achilles tendon, without adequate rest and recovery, can weaken the tendon over time.
- Age-related degeneration: The Achilles tendon can undergo degenerative changes as people age, becoming less elastic and fragile.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Tear
- Sudden, severe pain in the back of the leg or ankle
- A popping or snapping sound at the time of injury
- Swelling and bruising around the ankle area
- Difficulty or inability to bear weight or push off with the affected foot
- Limited range of motion in the ankle joint
- A noticeable gap or indentation in the tendon where the tear occurred (in the case of a complete tear)
Treatment Options for Best recovery
If you suspect an Achilles tendon tear, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention. Treatment options may include nonsurgical approaches such as immobilization in a cast or walking boot, physical therapy, and gradual rehabilitation. However, surgical repair may be recommended for more severe or complete tears, particularly in active individuals or athletes.
- Immobilization: To facilitate tendon healing, the affected leg may undergo immobilization using a cast, walking boot, or brace, which stabilizes the ankle and foot. This approach is typically employed for partial tears or patients who are not ideal candidates for surgery.
- Physical therapy: Additionally, after the initial immobilization phase, healthcare providers frequently advise physical therapy. This helps restore strength, flexibility, and functionality to the ankle and lower leg. Physical therapy exercises encompass a range, including those for improving range-of-motion, strengthening, and gradually reintroducing weight-bearing activities.
Open Surgery: Surgeons may recommend open surgery, particularly for complete tears or individuals with active lifestyles or athletes who require maximum tendon strength and function. In open surgery, the surgeon makes an incision in the back of the leg and sutures the torn ends of the Achilles tendon back together.
- Minimally Invasive Surgery: Another surgical approach is minimally invasive or percutaneous Achilles tendon repair, which utilizes smaller incisions and specialized instruments. This technique can lead to reduced scarring and potentially expedited recovery.
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