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An Achilles tendon tear is a separation of the fibrous tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. A tear often occurs during intense physical activity and is most common among athletes and those in their 30s and 40s.
Causes of an Achilles tendon tear
A tear in the Achilles tendon is typically caused by a sudden movement that puts stress on the tendon. However, a tear can also be trauma-induced and result from a fall in which sudden force is placed on the tendon, causing it to overstretch.
Overuse of the tendon or repetitive motion that wears the tendon down over time may contribute to the injury. Also, individuals with a history of tendonitis or tendinosis are more susceptible to a tear since the tendon has already been injured.
When your Achilles tendon is tight and inflexible, it is more prone to injury. Refusing to stretch before exercising can increase your risk of an Achilles tendon tear.
Achilles tendon tear symptoms
Tearing of the Achilles is often described as a sharp pain accompanied by a popping sensation felt behind the ankle. There is typically swelling and bruising around the torn tendon, and it may be difficult to point your toes. Walking and standing on your toes may also be painful.
Treatment for an Achilles tendon tear
A torn Achilles tendon can be treated with or without surgery. Individuals who are not very active, and those who do not want to take the risks involved with surgery, often choose non-surgical treatment; athletes and those with very active lifestyles typically choose to have the surgery.
Non-surgical treatment for a tear in the Achilles tendon usually involves keeping your foot immobilized in a cast or boot for 4-6 weeks. This allows time for the ends of the torn tendon to reattach and heal. Once the cast is removed, physical therapy will be needed to strengthen the tendon and increase flexibility. While non-surgical treatment may be successful, there is a higher risk for another tear, and it’s possible that the tendon may not regain the strength it once had.
During surgery, the ends of the torn tendon are stitched together, and a splint is worn for the next 4-6 weeks while the tendon heals. As with any surgery, there are risks associated with the procedure, including infection and scarring. However, the risk of another tear is reduced, and it is more likely for strength to be fully regained in the tendon.
If you have a torn Achilles tendon, consult your doctor about your treatment options. Each case is slightly different and your doctor will be able to help you decide which treatment is best for you.