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Achilles Tendon Rupture

Updated on March 13, 2012

Overview

Achilles tendon rupture is a tear in the Achilles tendon, the fibrous band that connects between the calf muscles in the back of the leg and the bones of the heel. It is caused by overstretch of the tendon to the degree that it tears either partially or completely. It iscommon to occur in people practicing recreational sports.


View Slideshow: Achilles Tendon Rupture...
View Slideshow: Achilles Tendon Rupture...

Symptoms of Achilles Rupture:

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Swelling around the ankle joint is one of the most common symptoms associated with ruptured Achilles tendon.Achilles tendon rupture makes you unable to stand on your toe tips as it  plays great role when you try to stand on your toe tips.
Swelling around the ankle joint is one of the most common symptoms associated with ruptured Achilles tendon.
Swelling around the ankle joint is one of the most common symptoms associated with ruptured Achilles tendon.
Achilles tendon rupture makes you unable to stand on your toe tips as it  plays great role when you try to stand on your toe tips.
Achilles tendon rupture makes you unable to stand on your toe tips as it plays great role when you try to stand on your toe tips.

Symptoms

Most people with Achilles tendon rupture experience the following symptoms after the injury occurs. These symptoms include:

  1. Pain, usually very severe, in the back of the leg.
  2. Swelling may appear in the affected leg especially near the heel.
  3. Popping or snapping sound may be heard when the injury occurs.
  4. Inability to stand up on the toes of affected leg.
  5. Inability to bend your foot downward.

Some people may experience no symptoms or signs at all when they have ruptured Achilles tendon. But, this is uncommon.


Causes

The most common cause of Achilles tendon rupture is sudden overstretch and increased stress on the tendon, which may occur during:

  1. Increase the intensity of sport participation suddenly.
  2. Falling from high area on your heel.
  3. Stepping into a hall forcibly.

Rupture usually occurs at the point located 2.5 inches above the insertion of the Achilles tendon on the bones of the heel. Sometimes, this point gets less blood flow; so its ability to hear from tendinitis is decreased making it more susceptible for rupture.


Sudden forcible movements of the ankle joint may lead to ruptured Achilles tendon.
Sudden forcible movements of the ankle joint may lead to ruptured Achilles tendon.

Risk Factors

The presence of risk factors in a person makes him or her more susceptible for Achilles tendon rupture. These risk factors include:

  1. Your Age: The peak of incidence of Achilles tendon rupture is between 30 and 40 years old.
  2. Your Sex: Being a man makes you five times more susceptible to have ruptured Achilles tendon than being a woman.
  3. Playing Recreational Sports: Recreational sports are the sports that include running, jumping or sudden stopping from motion such as football, basketball and tennis. These sports increase the possibility of having rupture tendon.
  4. Certain antibiotics: Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and Levofloxacin (Levaquin) are associated with increased risk of Achilles tendon rupture.
  5. Steroid Injection: If there is inflammation and pain in your foot, your doctor may inject corticosteroids in your ankle joint to reduce them. But, this drug makes the nearby tendons weak and is associated with increased risk of ruptured Achilles tendon.


On examining your foot and ankle, your doctor will test your ability to move your foot. Then, order the required investigations.
On examining your foot and ankle, your doctor will test your ability to move your foot. Then, order the required investigations.

Achilles tenodn Rupture

Diagnosis

Achilles tendon rupture is diagnosed mainly through physical examination. Your doctor will see if there are any tenderness or swelling on the Achilles tendon area. Also, rupture of the tendon may be detected by examining your ankle reflex. In this test, the doctor will squeeze your calf muscles and see if your heel will flex or not. If not, your Achilles tendon is ruptured.

Then, other investigations may be ordered to detect the extent of the rupture, either it is partial or complete. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) visualizes the soft tissues including your Achilles tendon; so it can accurately detect the degree of the rupture.


Treatment

The method of treatment of ruptured Achilles tendon usually depends on the age and the physical activity of the patient. Usually, young patients prefer non-surgical treatment while old patients prefer surgery. The effectiveness of both methods is nearly the same.

  1. Non-surgical treatment: It involves the use of a cast or walking boots with wedges to elevate the heel to reduce the stress on the tendon and allow the ruptured ends to heal. Although, it decreases the risk of infection that may accompany surgery, the risk of re-rupture is increased and it becomes more difficult to treat even with surgery. Recovery may take longer time with non-surgical approach.
  2. Surgery: It is the common treatment used in cases of complete tendon rupture. It involves making an incision in the back of the leg, then, the torn ends of the tendon is stitched together. Sometimes, the nearby tendons may be used to reinforce the repaired tendon. Surgery is associated with infection and damage of nearby nerves. The risk of infection is decreased in cases of small incisions.
  3. Rehabilitation: Patients treated with both methods must participate in rehabilitation program after recovery to strengthen the calf muscles and Achilles tendon. Most people retain their former ability of activity within four to six months.


How to Prevent Rupture of Achilles Tendon?

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#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: Stretch with your knee bent.#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: Stretch with Knee bent.#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: Stretch with knee straight.#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: #2: Change the type of the sport you participate in: You should try other sports such as swimming instead of hill-running.#3: Choose carefully the suitable shoes and exercise over a flat land.#4: Increase the intensity of your exercise gradually.
#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: Stretch with your knee bent.
#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: Stretch with your knee bent.
#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: Stretch with Knee bent.
#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: Stretch with Knee bent.
#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: Stretch with knee straight.
#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: Stretch with knee straight.
#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles:
#1: Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles:
#2: Change the type of the sport you participate in: You should try other sports such as swimming instead of hill-running.
#2: Change the type of the sport you participate in: You should try other sports such as swimming instead of hill-running.
#3: Choose carefully the suitable shoes and exercise over a flat land.
#3: Choose carefully the suitable shoes and exercise over a flat land.
#4: Increase the intensity of your exercise gradually.
#4: Increase the intensity of your exercise gradually.

Achilles Tendon Rupture: How to Prevent?

There are some tips that help decrease the risk of Achilles tendon rupture. These tips include:

  1. Strengthen and stretch your calf muscles: Stronger calf muscles are more efficient in absorbing more force. If you keep stretching your calf muscles regularly, their flexibility enhances and the Achilles tendon becomes stronger. However, you should stretch them only to the point where you feel a pull not a pain. Overstretching of the Achilles tendon is the main cause of Achilles tendon Rupture.
  2. Participate in different sports: You can alternate between high-impact sports, such as Tennis, and low-impact activities, as swimming. By this way, you can give your Achilles tendon more time to rest without interrupting your daily exercise.
  3. Choose flat running surfaces: Always, run over flat surfaces only, and avoid hard or slippery ones to protect your heel. And, you should also choose the appropriate sports shoes which provide maximum comfort. You can choose those with a cushion over the heel.
  4. Increase your exercise intensity gradually: Never increase the distance, the frequency, or the duration of your exercise very rapidly. You body needs time to be accustomed with the new regimen. It is recommended to not increase your activity level more than 10% every week.


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      It's amazing just how long it takes an Achilles' tendon to heal.

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