Achilles Tendon Rupture

What is an Achilles tendon rupture?

The Achilles tendon is located at the back of your ankle. Tendons join muscles to bones and the Achilles joins the calf muscle to the heel bone. It allows you to point your foot downward and to push off the ground when walking and running. The tendon may be torn due to:

  • forceful contraction of the calf muscle, which applies stress to the Achilles. This may happen when you push off your foot forcefully (especially during sport)
  • falls, particularly if the foot is suddenly forced into an upward-pointing position
  • a deep cut at the back of the ankle

Tears can be partial or complete. Prompt specialist treatment is needed as the tendon heals better the sooner it is treated.

What are the symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture?

The symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture include:

  • a snapping feeling or sound when the tendon is torn
  • sharp pain that feels like you have been kicked and tends to go away quite quickly
  • swelling and bruising
  • a flat-footed walk because you can’t push off the ground
  • inability to point your foot down or stand on tiptoe.

If the tendon has torn completely, you may be able to feel a gap at the back of your heel.

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What does your doctor look for?

Your doctor will ask you about how the injury occurred, about your symptoms and about your general health (eg pre-existing conditions, previous injuries).

Your doctor will examine your ankle looking for pain, swelling, deformity, mobility and will check if you can stand on tiptoe.

What investigations are needed?

While it is usually possible to make a diagnosis based on history, symptoms and physical examination, sometimes further information is needed. In this case, an ultrasound or MRI scan may help.

How is an Achilles tendon rupture treated?

Treatment options for Achilles rupture are either conservative therapy or surgical repair. Both options involve wearing a cast or a brace to protect the tendon while it heals. The cast or brace holds your foot pointed slightly downward, which takes the strain off the tendon.

Surgical treatment involves sewing the torn ends of the Achilles tendon together. It is usually possible to perform this through very small cuts.  In some cases, it may be necessary to use another tendon or a tendon graft to help with the repair.

Getting back to using the leg normally sooner rather than later appears to improve outcomes. Hence, you will probably be fitted with a cast or splint that you can walk on and you may not be given crutches.

Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.