Achilles Tendon Rupture Fallacies

Overview

Achilles Tendinitis

An Achilles tendon rupture is when part or all of your tendon is torn. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle in your lower leg to your heel bone. It allows you to point your foot down and to rise on your toes. A tear is caused by an injury or increased pressure, such as during sports or a fall. The following may make your Achilles tendon weak or stiff, and more likely to tear. A past tendon tear. Lack of physical activity. Abnormal bone structure in your foot. Obesity. Older age. Medicines, such as steroids and antibiotics.




Causes

Your Achilles tendon helps you point your foot downward, rise on your toes and push off your foot as you walk. You rely on it virtually every time you move your foot. Rupture usually occurs in the section of the tendon located within 2 1/2 inches (about 6 centimeters) of the point where it attaches to the heel bone. This section may be predisposed to rupture because it gets less blood flow, which also may impair its ability to heal. Ruptures often are caused by a sudden increase in the amount of stress on your Achilles tendon. Common examples include increasing the intensity of sports participation, especially in sports that involve jumping, falling from a height, stepping into a hole.




Symptoms

Patients who suffer an acute rupture of the Achilles tendon often report hearing a "pop" or "snap." Patients usually have severe pain the back of the lower leg near the heel. This may or may not be accompanied by swelling. Additionally, because the function of the Achilles tendon is to enable plantarflexion (bending the foot downward), patients often have difficulty walking or standing up on their toes.




Diagnosis

In diagnosing an Achilles tendon rupture, the foot and ankle surgeon will ask questions about how and when the injury occurred and whether the patient has previously injured the tendon or experienced similar symptoms. The surgeon will examine the foot and ankle, feeling for a defect in the tendon that suggests a tear. Range of motion and muscle strength will be evaluated and compared to the uninjured foot and ankle. If the Achilles tendon is ruptured, the patient will have less strength in pushing down (as on a gas pedal) and will have difficulty rising on the toes. The diagnosis of an Achilles tendon rupture is typically straightforward and can be made through this type of examination. In some cases, however, the surgeon may order an MRI or other advanced imaging tests.




Non Surgical Treatment

The best treatment for a ruptured Achilles tendon often depends on your age, activity level and the severity of your injury. In general, younger and more active people often choose surgery to repair a completely ruptured Achilles tendon while older people are more likely to opt for nonsurgical treatment. Recent studies, however, have shown fairly equal effectiveness of both operative and nonoperative management. Nonsurgical treatment. This approach typically involves wearing a cast or walking boot with wedges to elevate your heel; this allows the ends of your torn tendon to heal. This method can be effective, and it avoids the risks, such as infection, associated with surgery. However, the likelihood of re-rupture may be higher with a nonsurgical approach, and recovery can take longer. If re-rupture occurs, surgical repair may be more difficult.

Achilles Tendinitis




Surgical Treatment

Thanks to a new surgical technique, operative procedures are often more beneficial.The operative treatment of Achilles tendon ruptures has significantly changed in recent years. The objective today is to connect the torn tendons using modern suture and possibly adhesive materials. Through small surgical incisions the ends of the torn tendon are surgically exposed, and sutures are used to tie the ends permanently together. Thus, the operated repaired tendon is again resilient within a reasonable time. The cast treatment and walking on crutches required in the past, is with this procedure usually not necessary. Instead, functional treatment following the surgery involves wearing a special boot, meaning that the patient can put weight onto the operated leg again within a few days after surgery. Physical therapy training will start immediately following the operation. The philosophy behind such an early functional treatment is that tissue adequately adapts to stress and thus accelerates the healing process. For the patient, the modern surgical treatment of an Achilles tendon rupture has the distinct advantage that no prolonged hospital stay is necessary. Hospital stay usually lasts only a few days. Using crutches, patients can return to work soon after the surgery.




Prevention

The best treatment of Achilles tendonitis is prevention. Stretching the Achilles tendon before exercise, even at the start of the day, will help to maintain ankle flexibility. Problems with foot mechanics can also lead to Achilles tendonitis. This can often be treated with devices inserted into the shoes such as heel cups, arch supports, and custom orthotics.

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