The Achilles tendon is one of the longer tendons in your body, stretching from the bones of your heel to your calf muscles. You can feel it — a springy band of tissue at the back of your ankle and above your heel. It allows you to extend your foot and point your toes to the floor.
Achilles Tendon Rupture Causes
The Achilles tendon can grow weak and thin with age and lack of use. Then it becomes prone to injury or rupture. Achilles tendon rupture is more common in those with preexisting tendinitis of the Achilles tendon. Certain illnesses (such as arthritis and diabetes) and medications (such as corticosteroids and some antibiotics, including quinolones such as levofloxacin [Levaquin] and ciprofloxacin [Cipro]) can also increase the risk of rupture.
Rupture most commonly occurs in the middle-aged male athlete (the weekend warrior who is engaging in a pickup game of basketball, for example). Injury often occurs during recreational sports that require bursts of jumping, pivoting, and running. Most often these are tennis, racquetball, basketball, and badminton.
The injury can happen in these situations.
You make a forceful push-off with your foot while your knee is straightened by the powerful thigh muscles. One example might be starting a foot race or jumping.
You suddenly trip or stumble, and your foot is thrust in front to break a fall, forcefully overstretching the tendon.
You fall from a significant height or abruptly step into a hole or off of a curb.
What Does an Achilles Tendon Injury Feel Like?
Symptoms of an Achilles tendon injury are:
- Pain along the back of your foot and above your heel, especially when stretching your ankle or standing on your toes. Pain may be mild and worsen gradually, in cases of tendonitis. Or it can be abrupt and severe with ruptures.
- Hearing a snapping, popping noise during the injury
- Difficulty flexing your foot or pointing your toes (in complete tears of the tendon)
When to Seek Medical Care
Tendon strain or tendon inflammation (tendonitis) can occur from tendon injury or overuse and can lead to a rupture.
Call your doctor if you have signs of minor tendon problems.
- Minor tenderness and possible swelling increases with activity. There is usually no specific event causing sudden pain and no obvious gap in the tendon.
- You can still walk or stand on your toes.
- Acute calf pain and swelling can indicate a tear or partial tear of the Achilles tendon where it meets the calf muscle. You may still be able to use that foot to walk, but you will need to see a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon. Surgery is not usually done.
- Sometimes special heel pads or orthotics in your shoes may help.
- Follow up with your doctor to check for tendonitis or strain before resuming activity, because both can increase the risk of tendon rupture.
- Any acute injury causing pain, swelling, and difficulty with weight-bearing activities such as standing and walking may indicate you have a tear in your Achilles tendon.
- Seek prompt medical attention from your doctor or emergency department.
- Do not delay! Early treatment results in better outcome.
If you have any question or uncertainty, get it checked.
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