The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. A rupture occurs when there is a tearing or separation of the tendon fibers. An Achilles heel rupture leads to loss of normal function.
Achilles tendon rupture can be caused by:
- Overworking an inflamed tendon
- Injury from an accident or fall
Factors that may increase your chance of getting Achilles tendon rupture include:
- Achilles tendinopathy
- Recent increase in activity level
- Weak or inflexible calf muscles
- Previous Achilles tendon rupture
- Involvement in sports that involve running, jumping, twisting, or lunging
- Improper footwear
- Certain medications, such as quinolone antibiotics or corticosteroids, which weaken the tendon
- Collagen vascular diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma
Symptoms may include:
- Popping or snapping noise when injury occurs
- Sudden, extreme pain at the back of the heel
- Swelling near your heel
- Inability to push off from the ball of the foot
- Inability to walk on the affected leg
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Images may be taken of the affected area. This can be done with:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options may include the one or more of the following:
When you are injured, apply these steps right away and seek medical help:
- Stop your activity and stay off the injured foot.
- Apply an ice pack. Place a towel between the ice pack and your skin.
- Wrap your injured foot and ankle in elastic bandaging. Do not wrap the bandage too tight. It may cut off circulation.
- Elevate your foot above the level of your heart.
To help manage pain, your doctor may advise:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs)
- Prescription pain relievers
Surgery is the most common treatment for this condition. An incision is made in the lower leg and the tendon is sewn back together. A cast, splint, walking boot, or brace is worn for 6-8 weeks. One of the benefits of surgery is that it lowers the risk of re-rupturing the tendon. Surgery may also be a better option if you are athletic.
The other option is to allow your tendon to heal without surgery. In this case, you also need to wear a cast, splint, walking boot, or brace for 6-8 weeks. You also may have different exercises to do. If you are less active or have a chronic illness that prevents surgery, this option may be better for you.
During rehabilitation, you will:
- Complete range-of-motion exercises for the legs. Ankle motion will begin when healing allows.
- Progress to strengthening and balance exercises as your condition improves
- Use crutches or a walker to protect the healing tendon
- Be advised of other exercises and activities that are safe for you
Most people can return to normal activity in 4-6 months.
To help reduce your chance of getting Achilles tendon rupture, take the following steps:
- Do warm-up exercises before an activity and cool down exercises after an activity.
- Wear proper footwear.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Rest if you feel pain during an activity.
- Change your routine. Switch between high-impact activities and low-impact activities.
- Strengthen your calf muscle with exercises.
- Reviewer: Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT
- Review Date: 02/2014 -
- Update Date: 02/28/2014 -