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The Achilles tendon is located behind and above the heel. It joins the heel bone to the calf muscles, therefore allowing you to bend your foot downwards away from the ankle. For this reason, the Achilles tendon is considered a very important part of the leg.
An Achilles tendon can be partially torn or completely ruptured. If it is a complete tear, it means that the calf muscles are no longer attached to the heel bone. A ruptured Achilles tendon can occur if the force and stress placed on the tendon is too great for the Achilles to tolerate. Activities such as football, running, basketball, diving and tennis may cause a ruptured Achilles tendon due to the pushing off movement needed in a lot of these sports.
If a ruptured Achilles tendon occurs, the patient may hear an audible ‘popping’ or snapping noise and will feel intense pain in the area. The majority of people who experience this form of injury often have difficulty walking after the injury occurs.
Patients develop a flat-footed walk or limp due to the fact that they are unable to push off the ground properly on the side where the Achilles tendon is ruptured. Patients will often experience swelling around the ankle and heel bone. In cases where a complete rupture has occurred, patients may often feel a gap at the back of their heel bone.
In the case of complete ruptures of the Achilles tendon, surgery is necessary. The recovery period can take up to 16 weeks depending on the patient’s progress.
Physiotherapy is very important in the rehabilitation of an Achilles tendon injury. Physiotherapy treatment techniques such as soft tissue massage, dry needling, joint mobilisation and passive stretching helps restore tendon flexibility post surgery. Biomechanical assessment and correction of movement patterns, along with a tailored exercise program is also vital in improving calf and Achilles strength post injury.
In the initial weeks after surgery, physiotherapy treatment will involve passive exercises and gentle massaging. As the recovery period progresses, your physiotherapist will focus on improving the flexibility of the Achilles tendon before using strengthening exercises to make sure you are fully confident on your feet again.
If you have experienced a recent Achilles tendon rupture, our expert physios here at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic are trained in biomechanical assessment and treating a range of lower limb injuries. If you would like to book an appointment, contact us here.