Achilles tendon rupture is a serious injury which needs to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
The Achilles tendon is located just behind and above the heel. Its role is to help the foot to bend downwards at the ankle.
An Achilles tendon rupture is when you tear the tissue that connects your calf muscle to your heel bone. This makes it difficult to walk and your ankle will feel weak.
Symptoms of Achilles tendon rupture
If you rupture your Achilles tendon, you might hear a snapping or popping sound when it happens. You’ll feel a sudden and sharp pain in your heel or calf (lower leg) too. It might feel like you’ve been kicked or hit in the back of your leg. The pain will then settle into a dull ache or it may go completely. You may also:
- have some swelling in your calf
- be unable to put your full weight on your ankle, or stand on tiptoes, or climb stairs
- have some bruising around the area
If you have any of these symptoms and think you’ve ruptured your Achilles tendon, seek treatment immediately.
If you partially rupture your Achilles tendon, you may get some pain and stiffness that may come on quite suddenly.
Diagnosis of Achilles tendon rupture
The doctor will examine your leg, heel and ankle and may squeeze your calf muscle to check the movement of your foot. This is quite an accurate test for Achilles tendon rupture.
You may need to have some tests to confirm if your tendon is torn, such as:
- an ultrasound scan, which uses sound waves to produce an image of the inside of your leg
- an MRI scan, which uses magnets and radio waves to produce images of the inside of your leg
Treatment of Achilles tendon rupture
You might be able to wear a plaster cast, brace or boot on your lower leg for six to eight weeks. This will keep your tendon immobile while it heals. You’ll need to use crutches to keep the weight off your leg.
This treatment might be a good option for you if you aren’t very physically active. But there’s more risk that your tendon may rupture again, compared with surgical treatment. Ask your doctor which treatment is best for you.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if you’re young and active. The surgery will allow the doctor to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Your tendon will stitch together so it can heal.
After your operation, you’ll need to wear a cast on your leg to help your Achilles tendon heal. This is usually for between four and six weeks.