What is a torn Achilles tendon?
An Achilles tendon rupture, better known as a torn Achilles tendon, is a very common injury, but requires attention from a doctor. It occurs when the tendon connecting the calf muscle to the heel bone is severed or torn. Men are seven times more likely to tear their Achilles tendon than women, and 75% of the time, the injury occurs from playing a sport or being active.
Some antibiotics or cortisone injections actually increase the likelihood of injuring your Achilles tendon. Flouroquinolone antibiotics like Cipro and Levaquin, which are used mostly for respiratory urinary tract, and other bacterial infections, increase your chances of tearing a tendon or getting tendinitis. These medications disrupt certain cells in your body from replicating because they are fighting an infection. As a result, your tendons have a harder time repairing themselves and can swell or tear much more easily while you are exercising.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body, so if you injure it, it is very important that you see a doctor. Two of our surgeons, Dr. Richard Jackson and Dr. Steven Herbst, perform Achilles tendon operations.
The Achilles tendon rupture is a traumatic injury and causes sudden pain behind the ankle. So you will know something is wrong! Patients often describe hearing or feeling a “pop” or “snap” sensation in their ankle or calf. Others say it feels like they have been kicked in the heel.
You may have difficulty pointing your toes downward, since the Achilles tendon pulls the foot. Swelling and bruising around the ankle or calf is also likely.
There are other Achilles tendon injuries that aren’t as serious as a ruptured Achilles tendon. If your pain isn’t as serious, you may have Achilles tendinitis or Achilles tendinosis.
Achilles tendinitis is swelling and tenderness of the tendon. This is mostly a result of overuse and can be easily treated.
Achilles tendinosis is a degenerative process where the tendon begins to break down and get small tears. This is mostly as a result of overuse, calf tightness, or a heel bone spur.
See the differences below:
Diagnosis: Thompson Test
To find out if you have a torn Achilles tendon, your doctor will likely perform the Thompson test.
You can also try this at home:
- – Lie face-down on the exam table, with your feet extended past the table/bed.
- – Doctor squeezes the calf muscle.
If your Achilles tendon is fine, your toes will point downward, as the Achilles tendon pulls the foot.
If your Achilles tendon is injured, your foot will not move.
More minor Achilles tendon injuries will not usually require surgery. However, these injuries can take a long time to heal, so be patient. In order to protect and speed up the healing process, you should:
- – Rest. Don’t try to do any strenuous activity until you are cleared by a doctor.
- – Ice your leg for 20 minutes every 1-2 hours.
- – Compress your leg with an elastic bandage to manage swelling.
- – Elevate your leg with a pillow.
- – Take anti-inflammatory medications.
- – Wear a heel lift or boot, if your doctor recommends that.
- – Stretch and strengthen your muscles – but only if your doctor or physical therapist recommends it!
If your injury is severe, you may need to undergo surgery to repair your Achilles tendon. However, you will likely return to your favorite activity or sport faster than if you went the non-surgical route! Surgery may also make you less likely to re-rupture your Achilles tendon. There are always surgical risks to any surgery, but the procedure is highly successful.
If you have further questions, please contact us!