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Achilles tendon rupture - aftercare

Heel cord tear; Calcaneal tendon rupture

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Description

The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. Together, they help you push your heel off the ground and go up on your toes. You use these muscles and your Achilles tendon when you walk, run, and jump.

If your Achilles tendon stretches too far, it can tear or rupture. If this happens, you may:

About Your Injury

Most likely your injury occurred when you:

Most injuries can be diagnosed during a physical exam. You may need an MRI scan to see what type of Achilles tendon tear you have. An MRI is a type of imaging test.

What to Expect

If you have a complete tear, you may need surgery to repair your tendon. Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of surgery with you. Before surgery, you will wear a special boot that keeps you from moving your lower leg and foot.

For a partial tear:

If you have a cast, it will cover your foot and go to your knee. Your toes will be pointing downward. The cast will be changed every 2 to 3 weeks to help stretch your tendon.

If you have a leg brace, splint, or boot, it will keep you from moving your foot. This will prevent further injury. You can walk once your doctor says it is OK to.

Symptom Relief

To relieve swelling:

You can take ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin), naproxen (such as Aleve or Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for pain.

Remember to:

Rehab and Activity

At some point as you recover, your provider will ask you to begin moving your heel. This may be as soon as 2 to 3 weeks or as long 6 weeks after your injury.

With the help of physical therapy, most people can return to normal activity in 4 to 6 months. In physical therapy, you will learn exercises to make your calf muscles stronger and your Achilles tendon more flexible.

When you stretch your calf muscles, do so slowly. Also, do not bounce or use too much force when you use your leg.

After you heal, you are at greater risk for injuring your Achilles tendon again. You will need to:

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider if you have any of these symptoms:

Also call your provider if you have questions or concerns that cannot wait until your next visit.

References

Rose NGW, Green TJ. Ankle and foot. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 51.

Sokolove PE, Barnes DK. Extensor and flexor tendon injuries in the hand, wrist, and foot. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 48.

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Review Date: 4/9/2018  

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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