Achilles tendon rupture

The Achilles tendon – the strongest tendon in the body

The Achilles tendon transmits the power of the calf muscles to the foot and plays a very important part in rolling over the foot. A force equal to eight times your own body weight acts on the tendon when you run. This clearly shows how important a stable and healthy Achilles tendon is in withstanding these stresses. Symptoms occur most often when the tendon is overworked or generally weak.

Causes of Achilles tendon rupture

Sports injuries are the most common cause of ruptures of the Achilles tendon.

Symptoms of rupture of the Achilles tendon

The symptoms of a rupture of the Achilles tendon can be:
  • For the patient, it feels like something has "snapped" or like a "sharp kick or blow" to the leg. This is accompanied by a loss of strength and the inability to actively extend the foot.
  • Walking on tiptoe is no longer possible, but there is no severe pain.
  • A gap or depression can typically be felt in the course of the tendon and the Achilles tendon reflex can no longer be elicited.

Operate or not?

A so-called tendoplasty is performed if the tendon shows severe pre-damage due to wear-and-tear. This is followed by several weeks' immobilisation of the leg with the foot in a tiptoe position. After about four to six weeks, the patient starts physiotherapy with progressive correction of the tiptoe position. A low heel lift should be worn for temporary relief of tension on the Achilles tendon.

A tear in the Achilles tendon is often treated conservatively, because a torn tendon grows back together on its own. However, with limitations: the Achilles tendon usually remains shortened and the transmission of power to the foot cannot be restored 100%. This is why doctors decide to sew the tendon together in some cases.

Therapy after the operation

After the operation, the leg must be immobilised for about four to six weeks. This is followed by physiotherapy to stretch the tendon slowly again. In many cases, a low heel lift is added for temporary relief of the Achilles tendon.

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