If you’ve ever pulled on a large rubber band or bungee cord, you likely felt the impressive amount of energy that can be stored inside the material as it stretches. Unfortunately, one of the clearest ways to demonstrate this force is if the band becomes overloaded and fails. You often get a strong snap and the elastic receives either a debilitating tear or fully breaks into two pieces. Either way, it’s not good. An Achilles tendon rupture works in a similar fashion, only in the back of your foot and leg.
With regards to treatment for Achilles tendon ruptures, there are essentially two different paths – conservative and surgical care.
Our recommendation as to which path we pursue will be decided based on a couple of different factors. These include such matters as your age, activity level, and the severity of the injury. These considerations can lead to one patient choosing a different approach than the one that makes the most amount of sense for you when you have a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Active, younger patients may wish to consider surgical procedures. These can usually entail an incision made in the back of the lower leg so we are able to stitch the torn tendon back together. When an Achilles tear is quite severe, we might need to use other, surrogate tendons to reinforce the repair.
For patients who are older and less active, we are more likely to recommend using conservative treatment methods. These options can include walking boots, casts, or special wedges. A boot or cast helps to immobilize the affected area, whereas a wedge can elevate the heel, thereby restricting the amount of movement for the damaged tendon and allowing it to heal properly.
Regardless as to the form of treatment used, rehabilitation is usually necessary. Often, this means using exercises to strengthen supporting leg muscles and the Achilles tendon itself.
There are some activities that can help you reduce the risk of sustaining a ruptured tendon in the first place, including:
- Ease into activity – Increasing physical activity levels abruptly and without ramping them up increases your risk of injury. Lower the risk by beginning a new running or workout program with low levels of duration, intensity, and frequency of training sessions. Increase your intensity and duration by 10 percent (or less) every week.
- Stretching and strengthening – Given the importance of the calf muscle in an Achilles tendon’s health, perform daily stretching. Also, use exercises that improve both the strength and flexibility of your lower legs.
- Cross-training – Don’t rely exclusively on running or other high-impact activities in your workout program. Instead, incorporate low-impact exercises into your weekly schedule. Swimming, biking, and especially walking are all great options. At the same time, limit the amount of hill running and activities with jumping you perform.
We hope you are able to stay safe and avoid rupturing an Achilles tendon. In the event you do hear the pop in the back of your heel and experience other indicative symptoms, come see us here at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute. Call us at (512) 593-2949 for more information or to request an appointment.