Ruptured Achilles tendon: Length of rehabilitation

18 March 2016
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18 March 2016, Comments: 0

A ruptured Achilles tendon can affect the rear part of the ankle. It typically occurs as an injury while playing various sports. If an individual sustained damaged to the Achilles tendon, there is an abrupt popping sensation in the ankle.

The individual might be able to walk properly. Always bear in mind that a ruptured Achilles tendon can be partial or full which requires surgery. In most circumstances, the rehabilitation period can last for 4-12 months.

How the Achilles tendon works

The tendons are fibrous, collagen-based tissues that connect muscles to the bones. The Achilles tendon is a large-sized tendon in the body which fastens the calf muscles to the bone in the heel.

The Achilles tendon is utilized while walking, running and jumping. Take note that this tendon is sturdy and capable of withstanding the strain while jumping and running, but engaging in active sports can increase the risk for injury. Additionally, the tendon is also susceptible to develop tendonitis which involves sore inflammation.

Ruptured Achilles tendon

Right after the injury, you have to apply an ice pack on the affected foot and elevate it and encourage the individual to rest.

What are the symptoms?

The indications of a ruptured Achilles tendon include the following:

  • Intense pain around the heel and ankle
  •  Swelling
  • Difficulty in placing weight on, bending or pushing off the affected foot
  • Inability to stand using the toes of the affected foot.

For partial ruptures, the individual might be able to move the foot and the swelling and pain is less severe. If the individual experiences a pop in the ankle and has issues in bearing weight on the same foot, it is best to consult a doctor.

Possible causes

The Achilles tendon is vital for various foot movements including standing on tiptoes, pointing the toes and pushing off the foot while running, walking or jumping. The tendon is used every time the foot is moved.

A ruptured Achilles tendon typically occurs at the spot on the tendon which receives less flow of blood. An abrupt increase of stress on the heel can lead to a ruptured tendon such as increased sport activity, falling from a height and stepping into a hole.

Rehabilitation for a ruptured Achilles tendon

The rehabilitation either with or without surgery is an extensive process that should not be rushed since there is a risk for damaging the tendon further. Right after the injury, you have to apply an ice pack on the affected foot and elevate it and encourage the individual to rest.

If surgery is needed, a cast is applied for the initial 8 weeks. During this period, it is vital to rest the foot. During the following weeks, the individual should wear heel raises to relieve some of the pressure off the tendon.

The doctor might recommend massage and ultrasound to stretch out and realign the new fibers in the tendon. The tendon should be stretched by pulling the toes up to the ceiling. This can be continued as long as it does not cause any discomfort. Once the full range of motion is restored, the individual can start with balancing exercises and build up gradually.

Remember that it usually takes between 4-6 months to rehabilitate the injury. Among athletes, it can take between 6-12 months until they can become fully active again.

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