The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel bone and when it ruptures it can tear completely or partially. Tears to the Achilles most commonly occur slightly above the heel bone. However, ruptures can occur anywhere along the tendon.
When The Achilles Tendon Tears
A tear in the Achilles usually occurs in those people who are typically inactive and then begin to participate in strenuous activity. These tears are also common among those who have experienced an injury to the Achilles. ACL tears are commonly caused by overusing the muscles, poorly fitted shoes, and flat feet. There is also a higher risk of injury if medications such as quinolone antibiotics are being taken or, more commonly, Levaquin.
When the injury occurs, patients have said they heard a popping sound or a snap and then immediately felt some level of pain in the back of their leg located close to the heel. Standing, walking, and pointing toes upward can cause extreme pain for those who have ruptured their Achilles tendon as well.
Some patients may experience similar pain and believe it to be a torn Achilles, but sometimes the symptoms of a tear imitate what is called bursitis. To determine which injury you have sustained, a doctor must evaluate your lower leg as well as take a thorough history to get the full picture.
An orthopedic doctor upon examining can determine if there is a weakness or a defect in the tendon which would lead them to believe there was a rupture in the tendon. Physicians use what is called the “ Thompson test,” which is where the doctor will squeeze the calf muscles, and if the foot moves downward, then the tendon is typically intact. If this test proves inconclusive, an MRI may be ordered.
Injury to the Achilles tendon, such as tendonitis or bursitis, is typically treated non-surgically. However, a rupture to the tendon more often than not results in a surgical repair. When repairing the tendon, the surgeon will attempt to utilize the ends of the ruptured tendon for the repair. Still, in the event the damage is too extensive, the surgeon will use other tendons to reinforce the injured Achilles. Recovery from this injury usually takes around 6-8 weeks of wearing either a cast or brace, as immobilization is the best remedy for a successful recovery. Returning to normal activities with no limitations may take anywhere between 6-12 months.
Non-surgical treatment of Achilles tendon rupture is usually reserved for patients who are relatively sedentary or may be at higher risk for complications with surgical intervention. This involves a period of immobilization, followed by a range of motion and strengthening exercises; unfortunately, it is associated with a higher risk of re-rupture of the tendon, and possibly a less optimal functional outcome.
At AICA Orthopedics, our Atlanta spine doctors or highly skilled and trained to treat a variety of conditions and believe in providing you with as many options as possible to ensure a successful recovery. Contact us today at (404) 855-2141 for a consultation!