An Achilles rupture is a complete tear of the Achilles tendon, which is a strong, fibrous band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is a serious injury that typically occurs in athletes or individuals who engage in physical activities that involve running, jumping, or sudden changes in direction. An Achilles rupture can cause sudden and severe pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking or standing on the affected leg. It requires prompt medical attention and treatment options may include surgery, immobilization of the affected leg, physical therapy, and rest. Full recovery from an Achilles rupture can take several months to a year.
Causes of Achilles Rupture
An Achilles rupture can be caused by a sudden and forceful movement of the foot and ankle, or by a gradual weakening of the Achilles tendon over time. Some common causes include:
Sports injuries: Sports that involve running, jumping, or sudden changes in direction, such as basketball or tennis, can put stress on the Achilles tendon and increase the risk of a rupture.
Overuse: Repeated stress on the Achilles tendon from activities like running, jumping, or playing sports can weaken the tendon over time, making it more prone to rupture.
Age: The Achilles tendon can become less flexible and weaker as we age, increasing the risk of a rupture.
Certain medications: Some medications, such as corticosteroids, can weaken the Achilles tendon and increase the risk of a rupture.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can increase the risk of a rupture.
Anatomic factors: Having flat feet or an abnormal foot structure can also contribute to the development of an Achilles rupture.
Signs and Symptoms of Achilles Rupture
The signs and symptoms of an Achilles rupture may include:
- Sudden, severe pain in the back of the leg or ankle
- A popping or snapping sound at the time of injury
- Swelling and bruising around the ankle and lower leg
- Difficulty walking or standing on the affected leg
- Inability to bend the foot downward or push off with the toes
- A visible gap or indentation above the heel bone
- Stiffness or weakness in the calf muscle
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor can perform a physical examination and imaging tests, such as an MRI, to diagnose an Achilles rupture and determine the best course of treatment.
Treatment for Achilles Rupture
Physiotherapy treatment for an Achilles rupture typically involves a gradual progression of exercises and rehabilitation to strengthen the affected area and promote healing. Some common treatments may include:
Immobilization: Initially, the affected leg may be immobilized in a cast or walking boot to protect the tendon and allow it to heal.
Range of motion exercises: Once the cast is removed, gentle range of motion exercises may be prescribed to help restore flexibility to the ankle and calf muscles.
Strengthening exercises: As the tendon begins to heal, a physiotherapist may prescribe specific exercises to strengthen the calf muscles and Achilles tendon.
Balance and coordination exercises: To help prevent future injury, a physiotherapist may incorporate exercises to improve balance, coordination, and agility.
Gait training: A physiotherapist may provide gait training to help you relearn how to walk normally after the injury.
Modalities: Therapeutic modalities, such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation, may be used to help reduce pain and inflammation.
Return to activity: Once the tendon is healed, a physiotherapist can guide you through a gradual return to activity to prevent re-injury.
It is important to work closely with a physiotherapist to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs, and to follow the recommended treatment plan to ensure the best possible outcome
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about achilles rupture please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Houck, D. A., Kraeutler, M. J., Belk, J. W., McCarty, E. C., & Bravman, J. T. (2021). Rehabilitation after acute Achilles tendon rupture: A systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Sports Medicine