Rehabilitation for Achilles Tendon Rupture

The Achilles tendon is the strong band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel. This tendon helps the foot to point downward and assists with foot movement for walking, running and jumping. If stretched too far, the tendon can tear or rupture, causing severe pain in the ankle and lower leg that can make it difficult or even impossible to walk. An Achilles tendon rupture often occurs as a result of repeated stress on the tendon and may be partially or completely ruptured, depending on the severity of the injury. A ruptured achilles tendon may result from a fall or a sports related injury. Surgery is a common treatment for a rupture of the Achilles tendon.

Rehabilitation After Surgery

Treatment for an Achilles tendon rupture depends on the severity of the condition, but often requires surgery to repair the tendon and restore function to the foot. Surgery is generally performed by making an incision in the back of the lower leg and stitching the torn tendon together. After surgery, the affected area is put in a cast or set in a brace for 6 to 8 weeks, and a physical therapist works with the patient to make sure that crutches are used safely. When the cast is removed, initial treatment may include ice, massage and whirlpool treatments to control swelling and pain.

Physical therapy treatments focus on improving range of motion without putting excessive strain on the healing tendons. Muscle-stengthening exercises and range of motion exercises may all be used to increase movement and mobility. Exercises are sometimes performed in a pool because the buoyancy of the water helps people to exercise safely without putting too much pressure or tension on the healing tendon. After surgery, physical therapy may be necessary for up to 4 or 5 months and full recovery may take up to 6 months.

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