You may not often think about the role of your Achilles tendon, but it is actually the largest tendon in the body. Connecting your calf muscles to your heel bone, the Achilles tendon is vital in walking, running and jumping.
Though the Achilles tendon is extremely strong and can withstand immense stresses, it is still vulnerable to injuries. An Achilles tendon rupture is caused by a sudden increase in stress on the tendon and occurs at the point of attachment of the tendon to the heel bone.
The individuals most at risk for Achilles tendon ruptures are active in sports that involve quick running, jumping movements and abrupt starts and stops.
Many describe the feeling of rupture as a pop or snap, followed by instant sharp pain in the back of the ankle and lower leg. Those who have had their Achilles tendon ruptured experience swelling and cannot walk properly or with ease.
Both nonsurgical and surgical treatments can be used to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon—the approach will depend on age, activity level and severity of injury.
In nonsurgical treatment, patients will wear a cast or walking boot, which allows the torn tendon to heel. There can be an increased likelihood of re-rupture with this method and the recovery may take longer.
If your doctor determines surgery is the best course of action, he or she will stitch the torn tendon together. This may be reinforced with other tendons, depending on the torn tissue’s condition.
When recovering from either a nonsurgical or surgical treatment, patients will require physical therapy to regain strength in the leg muscles and Achilles tendon. It will take most people four to six months to return to their normal level of activity.