Achilles Tendon Tears: How do you know if your achilles is torn?

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and vital to the range of motion in your foot. Even though the tendon is thick and fibrous, it can be injured during normal activities. Understanding the causes and symptoms of an Achilles tendon tear will help you avoid an injury or seek professional help if it happens.

What is an Achilles Tendon Tear?

Your calf muscles are connected to your heel with the Achilles tendon. The forward and backward motion of your foot is controlled by the Achilles. You may even be able to feel it stretching during everyday motion like walking, running, squatting, going up on your tip-toes, and others. 

The flexible bands making up your Achilles tendons are extremely durable and can withstand your body weight bearing down on them. That being said, excessive force or strain can cause a devastating injury or rupture.

What Causes a Torn Achilles Tendon?

Your Achilles tendon is strained when it stretches too much, too quickly. The following activities are some of the most dangerous for your Achilles:

  • Sudden starts and stops while running
  • Sprinting from a halt
  • Changing direction abruptly
  • Repeated jumping
  • Falling and landing on your feet
  • Quick pivoting

Although Achilles tendon ruptures can happen to anyone, it happens more frequently in athletes who play sports that require sudden movements. Running, football, baseball, basketball, tennis, gymnastics, and volleyball are some of the most common sports where torn Achilles tendons can happen.

Achilles Tendon Rupture Symptoms

An Achilles tendon tear is usually obvious to the injured. Sharp pain is typically experienced directly above the heel. The rupture is usually accompanied by a popping or snapping noise.

The area around your ankle may feel swollen or stiff and could be sensitive to touch. Bruising can also occur in the area and you will have trouble standing, pushing off, or bending your foot.

How is a Ruptured Achilles Tendon Treated?

After an examination to determine the location and severity of your Achilles tendon injury, our doctor will recommend the appropriate treatment. Non-surgical treatments may be possible for milder injuries or cases where the tendon has not completely torn.

Surgery is often required to repair your ruptured tendon. The Achilles surgery involves stitching the tendon back together through an incision on the back of your leg. Minimally-invasive techniques are also useful for reducing the risk of infection. Your surgeon will guide you through the recovery and physical therapy following your procedure.

Preventing Future Achilles Tendon Injuries

Avoid injuries to your Achilles tendon by stretching before exercise, strengthening your calf muscles, wear shoes with proper cushioning for the heel, and mixing low-impact activities with high-impact activities. Increase the intensity of your workouts gradually to avoid over-exerting yourself. Lastly, listen to your body. If you feel tightness or pain in your heel or you think you are pushing yourself too hard, slow down and rest.

Heiden Orthopedics is your resource for foot and ankle injuries, including Achilles treatment. We offer comprehensive, personalized treatment and prevention techniques for each unique patient.

4 Comments


I cut the back of my ankle with a blade a little over a 1/4 inch long but deep am worried that it clipped the tendon walking with a limp and weak and sore when I try to go on my toes any advice

Reply

    Brandon,

    Have you already been in to see a doctor? My first advice based on your description, go.
    If you’re walking with a limp and concerned about the tendon, it’s always advisable to see a medical professional. I would suggest seeing a Foot and Ankle Orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist.

    Reply

Was initially diagnosed with Achilles Tendinitis. Ankle was swollen last night. The initial pain came on gradually. Burning sensations from heel all the way up to the calf when on high toe and doing eccentric achilles exercises. How would I know if it’s a ruptured achilles? Can a person actually feel the gap in between? When I touch the tendon, I feel I straight line from the heel to my calf.

Reply

    Hi Dara,
    An Achilles tendon rupture is often times associated with a pop (hear/feel a pop) in the back of your ankle. People will describe a feeling of being kicked in the back of their ankle even though nobody is near them. The rupture typically occurs during an injury where the Achilles tendon is loaded eccentrically. That being said, it’s not always easy to tell if you have a ruptured tendon or not simply by feeling. Yes there’s often times a palpable gap in the tendon and you can also compare to the non-injured side to see if there’s the same tension or not within the Achilles tendon. Ultimately, if there is concern for a ruptured Achilles tendon, being evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon would be preferred.

    Reply

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