Achilles tendon is a band of connective tissue that runs from the calf muscles to the bones of the heel, located at the back of the leg. It is also the longest tendon in the human body. The Achilles tendon is critical when it comes to walking and running, and enables one’s ability to point the toes, and stand on the tip of the toes.
Achilles Tendon Rupture, also known as ATR, is a common tendon injury that is most synonymous with athletes, but it can happen to anyone. Injury to this tendon can range from mild, and moderate to severe, the most severe being a tear or Rupture.
Causes of Achilles Tendon Rupture
The Achilles Tendon Rupture is usually common among active people ages between 21-45 years old. The Rupture occurs as a result of over-stretching the tendon beyond its capacity. Some of the common causes of this Rupture include:
- Accelerated running
- Accelerated slow down while running
- Sudden push and lift of the foot with great force e.g. While sprinting
Other less common causes of an Achilles Tendon Rupture include:
- Tight tendons
- High heels
- Lack of flexibility
- Fluoroquinolone medications (antibiotics)
- Oral or injectable corticosteroids’ use
- Old age
- Underlying medical conditions like diabetes, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disease
Symptoms of Achilles Tendon Rupture
The most common symptom of an Achilles Tendon Rupture is pain at the back of the foot, especially when one tries to stand on the toes. Other symptoms include:
- A popping sensation when the tendon Ruptures
- Sudden pain at the calf
- Swelling close to the heel
- Inability to point the toes or stand on them
Diagnosis of an Achilles Tendon Rupture
When seeing a doctor for an Achilles Tendon Rupture, he/she will start by a physical exam of both legs. If the tendon is Ruptured, there might be swelling and bruising. However, if the tendon is completely Ruptured, the specialist may be able to feel a gap between the heel and the calf, where the Achilles Tendon is located.
To know the severity of the injury to the Achilles Tendon, images of the tissue may be required, which is done through an X-Ray, MRI scan or ultrasound.
Treatment of Achilles Tendon Rupture
The treatment of Achilles Tendon Rupture depends on the patient’s health status, any underlying medical concerns, levels of activity as well as the root cause of the injury. There are two options when it comes to the treatment of a Ruptured Achilles tendon; non-surgical and surgical approaches. If the injury is mild to moderate, the tendon might be allowed to heal on its own, whether in a cast or out. Some of the conservative or non-surgical treatment options for a mild to moderately Ruptured Achilles tendon include:
- Over the counter medications to alleviate the pain
- Keeping the leg elevated
- Using a walking boot, cast or crutches to support the leg
- Applying on the injured area
- Compressing the injured area to keep down swelling
- Physical therapy
Surgical treatment options for a Ruptured Achilles tendon include:
The surgical approach for a Ruptured Achilles tendon is usually straight forward and involves stitching together the torn tendon through an incision on the lower leg. Depending on the surgical technique used, whether minimally invasive or open, the healing of the injury may take weeks or months.
Rehabilitation After Treatment
After either treatment options, rehabilitation, which includes physical exercises to regain strength on the Achilles Tendon may be required. For athletes who’s aim is to return to their full level of performance, functional rehabilitation may be required, which involves the movement and coordination of different parts of the body.
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service, from initial consultation through to final diagnosis and treatment and beyond. Our team of expert doctors and nurses are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you might have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.