Achilles Tendon Rupture

(Rupture, Achilles Tendon; Severely Torn Achilles Tendon)

How to Say It: ah-KILL-ees TEN-dun RUP-choor

Definition

An Achilles tendon rupture is a tear of the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.

Achilles Tendon Rupture
Achilles Tendon Rupture

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Causes

The exact cause is not known. It is thought to be caused by:

  • Putting sudden stress on the muscle, such as from landing a jump, lunging, or sprinting
  • Stretching the muscle too far
  • Falling or tripping

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in people who:

  • Are 30 to 40 years of age, often males who play sports
  • Are over 60 years, often women when climbing stairs
  • Play basketball or racket sports

Some other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Achilles tendinopathy
  • Recent changes in activity
  • Poor footwear
  • Alignment problems
  • Calf muscles that are weak or are not flexible
  • Prior rupture
  • Obesity
  • Certain medicines, such as fluoroquinolones

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Sudden pain at the back of the heel
  • A popping or snapping noise
  • Swelling between the heel and calf
  • Problems walking
  • Problems pushing off from the ball of the foot

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. An exam will be done. It will focus on the foot. This may be enough to suspect a rupture.

Images may be taken to confirm the rupture. This can be done with:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the amount of damage and the person's health. Options are:

Supportive Care

A minor rupture in someone who is less active or not well enough for surgery may be treated with:

  • Rest, ice, compression, and elevation
  • Medicines to ease pain and swelling
  • Crutches or a walker to keep weight off of the leg
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles

Surgery

Surgery may be done to sew the tendon back together. This lowers the risk of it rupturing again.

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent an Achilles tendon rupture.

RESOURCES:

American Podiatric Medical Association
http://www.apma.org

OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

Canadian Physiotherapy Association
http://www.physiotherapy.ca

REFERENCES:

Achilles tendon rupture. American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons Foot Health Facts website. Available at: https://www.foothealthfacts.org/conditions/achilles-tendon-rupture. Accessed July 29, 2020.

Achilles tendon rupture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116632/Achilles-tendon-rupture. Updated April 8, 2020. Accessed July 29, 2020.

Achilles tendon rupture. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=AV0003. Updated May 2012. Accessed July 29, 2020.

Uquillas CA, Guss MS, et al. Everything Achilles: Knowledge Update and Current Concepts in Management: AAOS Exhibit Selection. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2015 Jul 15;97(14):1187-1195.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT  Last Updated: 7/29/2020