Everything in the world has a limit to the weight and force it can hold. If you exceed that pressure, like driving too many over-weighted trucks over a small bridge, you damage the structure. Your body also has limits. Even tissues like your tendons, which are quite strong and elastic, have a breaking point. When your Achilles tendonreaches that point, you may develop a partial or total tendon rupture.
Reaching the Breaking Point
The Achilles tendon is made up of the tendons from three separate leg muscles, all attached to your heel bone. When the Achilles tendon is stretched beyond the limit of it elasticity, it may partially or completely rupture. The smallest of the muscle tendons, called the Plantar tendon, is usually the one that is effected when a partial tear occurs. A partial or complete rupture can happen to an athlete or anyone exerting themselves in any activity that involves running or jumping or if the person falls forward.
Reviewing the Damage
Any tear in a tendon, whether partial or complete, is very painful. When your Achilles ruptures, you feel the pain immediately. Usually there is a “pop” or a “snap” which has been described as feeling like a gun shot when it occurs. After the initial damage, it will be difficult for you to put your heel flat on the floor or rise up on your toes. The back of your leg between your heel and your calf muscle will be swollen and tender to the touch. You may notice some bruising as well. This condition does need prompt management; it may not heal properly if you do nothing for it.
Treatment of a partial Achilles tendon trear includes R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression & elevation) immediately after the injury. The back of the heel needs to be raised at least a half inch, while standing or walking , to lessen the pull on the Achilles tendon temporarily. This can be accomplished using a lift or pad inside of the shoe that is being worn. Alternatively, the Achilles tendon can be immobilized by wearing a walking cast (Cam walker) if weight bearing is to painful with a lift or pad also used to elevate the heel.
Fabricated custom orthotics with a half inch heel lift will permanently lessen the pull of the tendon at its insertion on the heel bone. Oral anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed to aid in pain relief as well as to reduce swelling. Resuming normal activities can take weeks with the need for pre-activity stretching to lengthen the muscle and tendons.
A complete Achilles tendon rupture is a surgical emergency as the tendon can retract up the leg when torn from its insertion into the heel bone. The surgical repair includes re-anchoring the tendon into the heel bone, many month of post-surgery physical therapy and custom orthotics.
An Achilles tendon rupture is a serious injury that causes significant pain and weakness in your foot. You need prompt treatment to restore the ligament and prevent chronic complications later. Don’t wait to seek help if you think you may have torn a tendon—contact Country Foot Care to make an appointment to have your condition evaluated, receive a diagnosis and have a treatment plan devised by our well-trained doctors. Appointments can be made by calling us during regular office hours or using the MAKE AN APPOINTMENT option at the top of this page.