Last week we focused on ligaments and the ways we can sprain, tear, and stretch them. Today, we focus on our tendons, specifically the Achilles tendon. Achilles was a great hero of ancient Greece and the battle for Troy. Legend has it that he couldn’t be defeated in battle, but a single arrow to the back of the heel was enough to bring him down. If you’ve ever torn or ruptured your Achilles tendon, you know exactly why.
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A tendon is a strong cord that connects muscles to bones. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscle to your heel bone and is the biggest tendon in your body. During recreational sports or heavy activity, the tendon may overstretch (causing pain) or tear/rupture (causing lots of pain). If your tendon ruptures, you might hear an audible “snap” or “pop” followed by severe pain and an inability to walk on the affected limb. While minor injuries can recover with rest and time, an Achilles tendon rupture may need to be surgically repaired to ensure proper healing.
Diagnosing an Achilles Tendon rupture is relatively straightforward. Your podiatrist may ask you to try pointing your toes, or they may feel around the calf for the tendon itself. In cases of a complete rupture, they may be able to feel a gap between the two ends. If there is any question about the severity of your injury, they may request additional tests such as an MRI or ultrasound to get a better look. Strains and ruptures can be treated with surgical or non-surgical options. Which you choose depends on a lot of factors so be sure to discuss your options thoroughly with your podiatrist.
Nonsurgical treatment of an Achilles tendon rupture involves complete immobilization of the foot and ankle. You may wear a cast or walking boot in combination with crutches to avoid weight-bearing. This path requires a minimum of six weeks for healing and can often take months with many follow up visits to your doctor. Tendons left to repair naturally are not as strong as surgically repaired ones so physical therapy and ankle strengthening will be important parts of your treatment plan. The chances of re-rupture are higher with non-surgical treatment.
The surgical solution for an Achilles tendon rupture is to have your podiatrist stretch and sew the two pieces of your tendon back together. While this sounds gross and invasive, it’s a fairly simple procedure. Surgical repair of tendons makes them stronger, lessening the chances of another rupture, and gives you more range of motion than a non-surgical option. Recovery time is shorter with a surgical fix meaning you’ll be back to the activities you love in no time! All of our doctors are well trained in the repair of Achilles tendons and can answer any questions you may have about your procedure or healing.
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Keeping your Achilles tendon strong and protecting your feet and ankles during activity can help reduce the chances of a strain or rupture. Perform calf-raises to keep muscles in shape and vary your activities, so you aren’t putting the same stresses on your feet all the time. Watch yourself during high-risk activities such as jumping or running. If you think you have strained or ruptured your Achilles tendon, call the FAAWC today. Our urgent care access means getting the care you need, right when you need it. Call 740-363-4373 today!