Wellness

Rupture of the Achilles tendon: symptoms, causes and prevention

Achilles tendon rupture is an injury that affects the lower back of your leg. It mainly occurs in athletes, but it can happen to anyone.

The Achilles tendon is a strong fibrous cord that connects the muscles at the back of your calf to your heel bone. If you stretch your Achilles tendon too much, it can tear (rupture) completely or just partially.

If your Achilles tendon ruptures, you might hear a popping sound, followed by an immediate sharp pain in the back of your ankle which is likely to affect your ability to walk properly. Surgery is often done to repair the rupture. For many people, however, non-surgical treatment works just as well.

Achilles tendon rupture symptoms

Although there may be no signs or symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture, most people have:

  • The feeling of having been kicked in the calf
  • Pain, possibly severe, and swelling near the heel
  • Inability to bend the foot down or “push” the injured leg while walking
  • Inability to stand on toes on injured leg
  • A popping or popping noise when the injury occurs

When to see your doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if you hear a popping noise in your heel, especially if you cannot walk properly afterwards.

Causes of Achilles Tendon Rupture

Your Achilles tendon helps you point your foot down, lift onto your toes, and push off your foot as you walk. You rely on it practically every time you walk and move your foot.

The rupture usually occurs in the section of the tendon located about 6 centimeters from the point where it attaches to the heel bone. This section can be prone to rupture because the blood flow is poor, which can also impair its ability to heal.

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Ruptures are often caused by a sudden increase in tension on your Achilles tendon.

Here are some of the most common examples:

  • Increase the intensity of sports activity, especially in sports that involve jumping
  • fall from a height
  • fall into a hole
  • Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of an Achilles tendon rupture include:

Age. The most common age for Achilles tendon rupture is 30 to 40 years old.

Sex. Rupture of the Achilles tendon is up to five times more likely to occur in men than in women.

Recreational sports. Achilles tendon injuries occur more often during sports that involve running, jumping, and sudden starts and stops – such as football, basketball and tennis.

Steroid injections. Doctors sometimes inject steroids into an ankle joint to reduce pain and inflammation. However, this drug can weaken nearby tendons and has been linked to Achilles tendon ruptures.

Certain antibiotics. Some antibiotics increase the risk of Achilles tendon rupture.

Obesity. Excess weight puts more pressure on the tendon.

Prevention

To reduce your risk of developing Achilles tendon problems, follow these tips:

Stretch and strengthen the calf muscles. Stretch your calf until you feel noticeable tension, but not pain. Do not bounce during a stretch. Calf strengthening exercises can also help the muscle and tendon absorb more force and prevent injury.

Vary your exercises. Alternate high-impact sports, like running, with low-impact sports, like walking, cycling, or swimming. Avoid activities that put undue stress on your Achilles tendons, such as hill running and jumping activities.

Choose running surfaces carefully. Avoid or limit running on hard or slippery surfaces. Dress appropriately for training in cold weather, and wear well-fitting athletic shoes with proper cushioning in the heels.

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Slowly increase the intensity of the workout. Achilles tendon injuries usually occur after a sudden increase in training intensity.

Increase the distance, duration and frequency of your training by no more than 10% per week.

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