The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. Together, they help you push your heel off the ground and go up on your toes. You use these muscles and your Achilles tendon when you walk, run, and jump.
If your Achilles tendon stretches too far, it can tear or rupture. If this happens, you may:
Most likely your injury occurred when you:
You will likely need an MRI scan to see what type of Achilles tendon tear you have. An MRI is a type of imaging test.
If you have a complete tear, you may need surgery to repair your tendon. Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of surgery with you. Before surgery, you will wear a special boot that keeps you from moving your lower leg and foot.
For a partial tear:
If you have a cast, it will cover your foot and go to your knee. Your toes will be pointing downward. The cast will be changed every 2 - 3 weeks to help stretch your tendon.
If you have a leg brace, splint, or boot, it will keep you from moving your foot. This will prevent further injury. You can walk once your health care provider says it is okay to.
To relieve swelling:
You can take ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), naproxen (such as Aleve or Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for pain.
At some point as you recover, your health care provider will ask you to begin moving your heel. This may be as soon as 2 - 3 weeks or as long 6 weeks after your injury.
With the help of physical therapy, most people can return to normal activity in 4 - 6 months. In physical therapy, you will learn exercises to make your calf muscles stronger and your Achilles tendon more flexible.
When you stretch your calf muscles, do so slowly. Also, do not bounce or use too much force when you use your leg.
After you heal, you are at greater risk for injuring your Achilles tendon again.
After healing you will need to:
Call your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms:
Also call your provider if you have questions or concerns that cannot wait until your next visit.
Heel cord tear; Calcaneal tendon rupture
Baer GS, Keene JS. Tendon injuries of the foot and ankle. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr., Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2009:section D.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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