What Is an Achilles Tendon Rupture?
An Achilles tendon rupture (also known as a tendon tear) is an injury to the thick band of tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel. The rupture can occur anywhere along the Achilles tendon, but it’s most common in the middle. Most people who rupture their Achilles tendon feel or hear a pop when the tendon breaks.
How Do You Tear Your Achilles Tendon?
You’re most likely to tear your Achilles tendon when you’re participating in an activity that’s more intense than usual. Many people who tear their Achilles are weekend warriors, or people who engage in intense or strenuous workouts only part-time.
Partial Achilles Tear
Partial Achilles tendon tears are much less common than full tears. A partial tear means that some of the fibers of the Achilles tendon have torn, but not all of them. These injuries are rare and often don’t require treatment.
Achilles Tendonitis vs. Tear
Achilles tendonitis is inflammation in the tendon caused by repetitive stress. The small fibers of the Achilles tendon may slightly break, swell, or thicken. An Achilles tendon rupture is usually a full-thickness tear through the tendon.
Achilles Tendon Rupture Symptoms
Most people feel pain immediately after tearing their Achilles tendon. The pain usually goes away within a day or two. You may also experience the following symptoms after rupturing your Achilles tendon:
- Soft spot where the tendon tore
- Calf muscle cramps
- Loss of color to the injured area when applying pressure
- Weakness when walking
Can You Walk If You Tear Your Achilles Tendon?
You may feel some pain or weakness, but you typically can still walk after tearing your Achilles tendon.
How to Diagnose an Achilles Tear
An orthopedic specialist usually will diagnose a ruptured Achilles tendon based on a clinical exam. They may use tests that evaluate the strength of your Achilles tendon while you are seated and again while lying on your stomach. Sometimes, we use X-rays to get a closer look at Achilles tears that have torn where the tendon meets your heel bone.
Achilles Tendon Tear MRI
You may have an MRI or ultrasound to diagnose an Achilles tendon tear, depending on the extent of the injury and your symptoms. However, we don’t use MRIs to diagnose Achilles tendon tears in most people.
Find a Foot & Ankle Specialist Near You
Achilles Tendon Rupture Treatment
We may treat Achilles tendon tears with or without surgery, depending on the injury. You will need to avoid putting weight on your affected foot for several weeks, no matter your treatment plan. This allows your tendon to heal sooner.
If you’re not undergoing surgery, you will wear a special boot with foam in the heel to keep your foot in a position where the edges of the Achilles tendon are closer together. You will start moving your ankle gently and participating in physical therapy exercises after two to three weeks.
Achilles Tendon Repair
During Achilles tendon rupture surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will reconnect the torn ends of the Achilles tendon. We often operate through small incisions (cuts) near the tear. This is usually an outpatient procedure where you can return home the same day.
Achilles Tendon Surgery Recovery
You won't be able to bear weight for several weeks after surgery. Your recovery time will vary depending on the type of surgery you have. You will begin physical therapy to gently rehab your ankle. Most people will wear a cast for 6–12 weeks after the procedure.
Achilles Tendon Rupture Recovery Time
Healing from an Achilles tendon rupture can take some time. Your doctor may allow you to slowly resume your usual activities about four to six months after the initial injury. Most people return to close to full function after recovery. However, it’s important to be cautious in the initial months after your injury because you’re more prone to reinjuring your Achilles tendon in the months after an injury. The more time passes after the initial injury, the more you can resume your usual activities.
Can You Tear Your Achilles Tendon Twice?
You can tear your Achilles tendon twice. The risk of reinjury is highest when you’re still recovering from an injury. Re-tears are less common as time passes after the initial injury.
How to Prevent an Achilles Tear
There’s no guaranteed way to prevent an Achilles tendon tear. Thorough warm-ups and stretching before activity may help lower your risk. But Achilles tendon ruptures don’t always have a known cause.
Why Choose University of Utah Health?
At U of U Health, you have access to some of the most experienced orthopedic specialists in the Mountain West region. The University Orthopaedic Center is led by nationally and internationally recognized experts who research new treatments and present our findings at international meetings.
Our orthopedic specialists are renowned experts in ankle and foot pain, providing world-class, accessible care with same-day and next-day appointments available for acute injuries. We specialize in foot and ankle surgery with extensive experience treating both recreational and high-level athletes.
Schedule an Appointment with a Foot & Ankle Specialist
Contact our Orthopaedic Services at 801-587-7109 to schedule an appointment with our orthopedic specialists.
You can also get a referral to see our orthopedic specialists from:
- your primary care provider,
- a provider in the urgent care or emergency room, or
- a provider at our walk-in Orthopaedic Injury Clinic.
Some insurance plans require that you get a referral from your primary care provider in order to see a specialist and have it covered under your plan. Check with your insurance carrier to find out if this is required with your plan and get a referral if necessary.