Northern California Achilles Tendon Injuries
Common Causes of Achilles Tendon Ruptures
The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel bone and controls the movement of the foot. Overuse or repeated movements during sports and other activities can overstretch the Achilles tendon, making movement painful or difficult.
A change in the intensity or duration of exercise or a change in exercise environment can cause micro-tears in the tendon. In addition, exercise without proper stretching and warm-up movements can cause additional injury and pain to the tendon.
An Achilles tendon rupture occurs when the tendon is overstretched to the point of tearing, whether partially or completely. The rupture happens during a forceful motion that places intense stress on the calf muscle, as in a runner beginning a sprint or a jumping motion. If the Achilles tendon already has micro-tears or strains, it is more likely to rupture.
Achilles tendon injuries at a glance:
- The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel bone, and can become injured when it is overstretched, torn, or completely ruptured.
- Achilles tendon injuries are most frequently caused by sports activities that require a fast, forceful motion. Injury can also occur when increasing the level of physical activity or exercising without adequate muscle stretching beforehand.
- Symptoms of an Achilles tendon injury include pain above the heel and along the back of the foot, tenderness, swelling, bruising, and stiffness. It may be painful or difficult to flex or point the foot. At the time of an Achilles tendon rupture, a popping or snapping noise may be heard.
- Achilles tendon injuries are treated with the RICE protocol: rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the injured ankle. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce swelling and relieve pain. Talk to your pharmacist before purchasing anti-inflammatories as these medications may be contraindicated as they may interact with other medications and medical conditions.
- Treatment options for Achilles tendon ruptures are either immobilization in a walking boot or surgery. Both options will require some ongoing physical therapy to strengthen the tendon and restore functionality.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Injury
With an Achilles tendon injury, symptoms may come on gradually or may only occur during walking or running. Swelling and pain are the most common symptoms of an Achilles tendon injury, along with decreased strength and range of motion in the ankle.
Achilles tendon ruptures have additional symptoms such as sudden, sharp pain accompanied by a popping or snapping sound. There may also be bruising and difficulty pointing the foot down or standing on tiptoe.
Treatment for Achilles Tendon Injury
Treatment for Achilles tendon injuries involves the RICE protocol:
- Elevation of the injured ankle
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen or aspirin can also help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
When the Achilles tendon has ruptured, treatment will include either immobilization in a walking boot or surgery. Wearing a boot or cast will keep the ankle and foot from moving and allow the tendon to repair itself. Although the immobilization option is less invasive than surgery, recovery takes longer, and there is an increased likelihood of the tendon rupturing again in the future.
Surgery is the most common treatment for Achilles tendon ruptures. Both surgery and immobilization options will require physical therapy after the tendon is healed to strengthen the tendon and restore functionality.
If you have recently experienced an Achilles tendon injury or rupture, contact us to request an appointment with one of our musculoskeletal specialists. MuirOrthopaedic Specialists serve Walnut Creek, Concord, Brentwood, and San Ramon.