What to Do If You Rupture Your Achilles
An Achilles rupture is a painful condition that can keep you off your feet if left untreated. This article will help you understand what an Achilles rupture is and how it can be treated.
What causes an Achilles rupture?
The Achilles tendon connects the heel bone up to the calf muscle, allowing a full range of motion as you flex and point your foot. Sometimes, during the course of strenuous exercise or a sudden movement, the Achilles tendon can rupture, leading to sharp pain and swelling around the foot and ankle.
Common causes of an Achilles rupture include
- Excessive strenuous exercise
- Sudden increase in intensity of physical activity
- Quickly speeding up or changing direction during physical activity (often during sports)
- Failure to properly warm up before physical activity
- Limited flexibility
- Poorly fitting shoes with little support
- Underlying Achilles tendon injury (such as Achilles tendinitis)
Age is also a risk factor—meaning the older you are, the more likely you are to experience an Achilles rupture.
What are the symptoms of an Achilles rupture?
Since an Achilles rupture is usually a spontaneous event, symptoms are often sudden and intense. You will likely feel a sharp, shooting pain, and you may even hear a popping or snapping sound as the tendon ruptures.
Here are some of the key signs you may have suffered an Achilles rupture:
- Sharp, sudden pain at the back of the calf or ankle
- Limp/difficulty moving around
- Tender to touch
In some cases, the Achilles tendon may have been strained for a while leading up to the rupture—for example, in cases of Achilles tendinitis. Symptoms of Achilles tendinitis are similar to those of a rupture, including pain, swelling, and difficulty moving, but are part of a chronic condition.
How is an Achilles rupture diagnosed?
To diagnose an Achilles rupture, an orthopedic doctor will likely go through the following tests to determine the source and extent of the injury:
- A physical exam where the source of your pain and your range of motion will be evaluated
- An X-ray to examine any surrounding bone injuries
- An ultrasound to indicate the exact location and scope of the rupture
- An MRI to diagnose complex or partial tendon ruptures
In some cases, an orthopedic specialist may conduct the Thompson test to determine if your Achilles tendon has ruptured. During the Thompson test, you will lie face-down while the doctor squeezes the back of your calf muscle. If your Achilles tendon is intact, your foot will flex, and the toe will point even further downward. Squeezing the calf of a leg with a ruptured Achilles tendon will produce no movement.
How is an Achilles rupture treated?
There are three primary treatment options available for an Achilles rupture:
- Conservative treatment: This treatment is recommended for older or less active individuals who may need to avoid surgery or anesthesia. The conservative method involves wearing a short cast or boot on the affected leg to keep it in a flexed position for six to ten weeks. The cast or boot stabilizes the ankle to avoid movement and allows the ruptured tendon ends to come together and heal.
- Minimally invasive Achilles repair: Otherwise known as the percutaneous technique, during this surgery, an orthopedic surgeon will make one or several small incisions to restore the rupture, rather than exposing the whole tendon.
- Open Achilles repair: An orthopedic surgeon will make a single large incision in the back of leg through which they will repair the ruptured tendon.
Following surgical treatments, you will be required to wear a boot or cast to keep the tendon stable while it heals. Physical therapy exercises are also often recommended to restore normal function.
Treating an Achilles rupture at Midwest Orthopaedics
An Achilles rupture is a serious injury that can seriously damage your quality of life and interfere with your ability to do the things you love. At Midwest Orthopaedics, we take your health seriously and are committed to providing the best treatments to a wide variety of orthopedic conditions.
If you experience an Achilles rupture, you need orthopedic specialists you can trust. The specialists and surgeons at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants offer the highest quality orthopedic treatment to get you back to doing what you love best.