Maybe you’ve felt that agonizing pain in the back of your heel before—one moment you’re running or jumping, and the next you feel a sharp snap in the back of your foot. Suddenly you can barely walk and your ankle is swollen and bruised. Chances are high that you have torn or ruptured that main tendon that moves your foot – your Achilles. Personal weaknesses are called our Achilles’ heels for good reason: when this tendon has a problem, our ability to move around effectively is severely impaired.
This strong, rope-like tissue connects your calf muscle to your heel bone and is what allows you rise up on your toes and push off the ground for any forward movement, including walking, running, and jumping. When it partially tears or ruptures completely, your calf is not able to pull on the heel bone. This means that pushing off the ground becomes extremely difficult.
This injury is caused by a sudden increase of the stress on the tendon. The tissues are stretched too far and are unable to handle the strain. This frequently occurs in athletes, especially if they have not properly conditioned their feet, ankles, and calf muscles. It can also occur in people who aren’t active regularly and try to do more at one time than their tendons are able to handle.
A tendon rupture is a serious injury that requires immediate attention for it to recover. The sooner it’s treated, the better it heals. If left on its own, it could be permanently weakened. The specialists at Dallas Podiatry Works can usually diagnose the injury after a complete examination of your foot, though additional diagnostic tools may be used, like MRIs, to confirm it and get a clear picture of the extent of the damage. If your Achilles is only partially torn, some conservative options may be available for treatment. The foot and ankle will need to be stabilized in a boot or cast while the torn edges grow back together. In many cases, however, the tear will be wide enough that you will need surgery. If it ruptured completely, surgery will most certainly be necessary to regain strength and movement.
You will have to stay off the foot and wear a protective boot for about a month after surgery. At that time Dr. Joel W. Brook, Dr. David R. Northcutt, Dr. Irene Arroyo and Dr. John Baca will determine if you are able to start putting weight on your foot again. You will need physical therapy to help your muscles and tendons rebuild their strength to be able to do their jobs without being reinjured. By six months, most people are able to return to their activities.
Most would agree that preventing a significant injury like an Achilles’ tendon rupture is better than having to deal with the problem after it happens. Since a rupture is caused by a sudden increase in strain on the tendon, conditioning your feet and ankles can help prevent a tear. Stretch out your calf muscles before and after exercising. Build up endurance for any activity slowly and over time. Vary your exercises as well—alternate between high-impact activities that are hard on your feet and low-impact ones. Be aware of your shoe choice, too. Supportive and well-fitted shoes relieve stress on the heel and help protect it.
Snapping your Achilles’ tendon is not just painful, it impairs your ability to walk and move effectively. Even if the initial injury is not a complete tear, failing to treat it adequately can lead to one later. Ignoring full ruptures could permanently weaken your feet and even disable you. If you or someone you care about may have this injury, do not ignore the pain or hope it’ll get better on its own. Seek immediate care and set your feet on the path to recovery. For an appointment or more information, contact Dallas Podiatry Works by visiting the online contact page or by calling one of our two office locations: for the Dallas location, call (972) 566-7474; to reach us in Plano, call (972) 943-3323.