Achilles Tendon Tears
Achilles Tendon Tears Vs Ruptures
Achilles tendon tears and Achilles tendon ruptures are similar in some ways yet different in others. For example, a tear can be considered a rupture if the tear includes the entirety of the tendon, but a partial-tear, where some or most of the tendon remains intact, would not ordinarily be considered a rupture. This is clinically important because whereas ruptures are more likely to result in surgery, a tear or partial-tear has a higher likelihood of healing by other modalities.
Often with an Achilles tendon rupture, there is a sudden injury or “pop” that is felt and is described at times as if someone was kicked in the back of the ankle due to the sudden sensation of pain. Those that participate in exercise or athletic activity only infrequently and at high-intensity, also known as weekend warriors, are at a greater risk for an Achilles rupture. A rupture results in rapid pain and swelling and an inability to walk on the affected limb.
How is An Achilles Tendon Tear Different
Achilles tendon tears, on the other hand, can also be due to a specific injury, but more often than ruptures, they are the result of overuse. With an overuse injury, there usually is not a specific memorable incident that results in pain, but rather there are a gradual weakening and stretching of tendon fibers over time from excess stress and forces on the foot and ankle.
Potential Treatment for an Achilles Tendon Tear
Achilles tendon ruptures often require surgery with prolonged immobilization and physical therapy. Usually, the tendon is repaired with sutures by bringing the ruptured ends back together, but in certain cases a graft or tendon transfer is necessary. It can take six months to a year to fully recover from an Achilles tendon rupture.
Achilles tendon tears also usually require a period of immobilization and physical therapy, but the recovery tends to be faster than with a rupture. Options to help reduce recovery time when healing from an Achilles tendon tear include platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and biologic injections. These injections bring growth factors to the injury site for a more robust healing response. There are also times when surgery is needed for a tear as well.
Only after a thorough exam and proper imaging techniques, such as an on-site ultrasound or MRI, can the diagnosis of an Achilles tendon tear or rupture be made. After diagnosis, treatment can be initiated to try to get you back to your pre-injury level of activities.