Achilles Tendon Rupture

A rupture of the Achilles tendon can result from untreated Achilles tendonitis. A rupture occurs when the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscle to the heel, suddenly tears, usually about two inches above the heel or ankle bone. This tear is usually described as a hearing a "pop" or "snap" and feeling as though someone has kicked them in the heel. After a rupture of the Achilles tendon there is extreme difficulty in pointing the toes down and swelling and bruising are common around the site.

Achilles tendon ruptures most commonly occur in the middle-aged "weekend warrior", or middle-aged athlete who participates in athletic activity on the weekends. This injury often occurs during recreational sports that require short bursts of jumping, running or pivoting, such as basketball, racquetball, tennis or badminton. The rupture is often sustained while making a forceful push-off while the knee is straightened or a sudden trip or fall with the foot receiving much of the force.

Normally, events such as a sudden trip or stumble would not cause a rupture for most people. The middle-aged athlete is more at risk because of how our bodies age. With each year we age, the tissues and tendons in our body become more inflexible. The leading cause of Achilles tendonitis and Achilles tendon rupture is a lack of flexibility.

Signs of an Achilles tendon rupture:

A sudden and sever pain is felt at the back of the ankle or heel. A loud pop or snap is heard. A gap or depression can be felt or seen about 2 inches above the heel bone. Swelling, pain and stiffness, followed by bruising and weakness. Standing on the toes or pushing off when walking is impossible. An inability to point the toes.

Treatment for an Achilles tendon rupture is needed to restore normal length and tension to the tendon. Treatment for a rupture is very basic and stresses protection with motion. Protecting the Achilles tendon is important while trying to treat a rupture. Moving the foot and ankle is needed to maintain muscle tone and prevent stiffness.

Treatment for a rupture can be solved with surgical or non-surgical treatment. Both types of treatment require an initial period of wearing a cast or special brace. This period usually lasts about 6 weeks; followed by a change in casting at 2 to 4 week intervals to slowly stretch the tendon back to its normal length. A heel wedge can be used in conjunction with physical therapy for the remainder of the treatment. Surgical treatment will require the tendon to be reattached and then the casting will follow the same treatment pattern as described above.

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