What is an Achilles tendon rupture?
An Achilles tendon rupture is when part or all of your tendon is torn. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle in your lower leg to your heel bone. It allows you to point your foot down and to rise on your toes. A tear is caused by an injury or increased pressure, such as during sports or a fall.
What increases my risk for an Achilles tendon rupture?
The following may make your Achilles tendon weak or stiff, and more likely to tear:
- A past tendon tear
- Lack of physical activity
- Abnormal bone structure in your foot
- Older age
- Medicines, such as steroids and antibiotics
What are the signs and symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture?
- A sudden pop, snap, or crack at the back of your ankle
- Severe pain in your leg or ankle
- Swelling, stiffness, or weakness in your leg or ankle
- A bruise on the back of your ankle
- Trouble moving or putting weight on your leg
How is an Achilles tendon rupture diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask what you were doing at the time of your injury. You may need any of the following:
- A calf-squeeze test is used to check for movement. You will lie on your stomach on a table or bed with your feet hanging over the edge. Your healthcare provider will squeeze the lower part of each calf. If your foot or ankle do not move, the tendon is torn.
- An x-ray will show swelling or any broken bones.
- An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your tendon on a monitor. An ultrasound may show a tear in the tendon.
- An MRI takes pictures of your tendon to show damage. You may be given dye to help the tendon show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
How is an Achilles tendon rupture treated?
- Pain medicines can help decrease pain and swelling.
- A cast may be needed for 2 months or more. Your foot will be positioned in the cast with your toes pointing slightly down. Your healthcare provider will change your cast and your foot position several times while the tendon heals. Do not move or put weight on your foot until your healthcare provider tells you it is okay.
- A leg brace or splint may be needed to help keep your foot from moving while your tendon heals.
- Heel lifts are wedges put into your shoe or cast. Heel lifts help decrease pressure and keep your foot in the best position for your tendon to heal.
- Surgery may be needed if other treatments do not work. The edges of your tendon may need to be stitched back together. You may need a graft to patch the tear. A graft is a piece of another tendon or artificial material.
How can I manage my symptoms?
- Go to physical therapy. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.
- Use support devices as directed. You may need crutches or a cane for support when you walk. These devices help decrease stress and pressure on your tendon. Your healthcare provider will tell you how much weight you can put on your leg. Ask for more information about how to use crutches or a cane correctly.
- Start activity as directed. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay to walk and play sports. You may not be able to play sports for 6 months or longer. Ask when you can go back to work or school. Do not drive until your healthcare provider says it is okay.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You have a fever.
- Your symptoms do not get better with treatment.
- You feel another pop, snap, or crack.
- The muscles in your leg become weak.
- Your leg feels numb, tingly, or hot.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care or call 911?
- You have trouble standing up or walking.
- You cannot move your leg or foot.
- You feel like you may have broken a bone.
- You have severe pain.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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