Achilles Tendon Tear

A Tear of The Tendon on the Back of Your Ankle

What is an Achilles Tendon Tear?

Your Achilles tendon is a thick band of tissue which is on the back of your ankle that attaches your calf muscle to your heel bone.  This allows you to flex your foot down like pressing the gas pedal in a car and push off with your foot.  

How does it occur?

You can tear your Achilles tendon with chronic repetitive movements, or while playing high impact sports.  Jumping, falling, and stepping in a hole can cause your Achilles tendon to tear.  Soccer, basketball, and tennis are all high risk activities due to the sudden starting and stopping required. 

What are the symptoms?

Immediate sharp stabbing pain on the back of the ankle is the first symptom. You may hear or feel a pop when this occurs.  It will be difficult or impossible to walk, stand on your toes, jump, or push off with that foot.  Swelling usually occurs not long after the injury.

How is it diagnosed?

A thorough patient history and physical exam are obtained.  Weakness to plantarflexion (pushing the gas) and passive dorsiflexion are usually present.  There may be a gap in the tendon that is palpable. A positive Thompson test may also be present which is performed by squeezing the calf muscle (positive if the foot does not plantarflex).

How is it treated?

A partial tear can be treated conservatively with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and NSAIDs (Advil/ibuprofen or Aleve/naproxen).  A boot will immobilize the ankle to allow for healing.  If conservative measures fail, or in a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon, surgery is needed to repair the tendon.  This can be done with either sutures or by grafting tissue from another source.

New surgical techniques allow the Achilles repair to be performed as a minimally invasive procedure.  Recovery from Achilles tendon ruptures has a high percentage of success.

What is the recovery time?

Recovery varies based on the severity and chronicity of the injury.  If surgery is required, it can be done as a same day surgery.  You will wear a boot for six weeks, progressively advancing your activity levels.  Most patients use crutches initially.  A full recovery is expected with a return to sports type activities can take four to six months.  

We are here to help. If you believe you are suffering from one of these conditions, we would love to deliver a diagnosis, get you treated and get you moving again.

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