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Achilles Tendon Rupture: How To Treat This Painful Injury

The Achilles heel isn’t just a myth!

According to the mythology, Achilles was a great warrior who, because of a dunk in the River Styx as an infant, was almost completely invincible. The only place on his body that could be injured was his heel, as that was where his mother was holding him when the said dunking occurred. Predictably, Achilles was killed by an arrow shot into that exact spot of vulnerability.

The Achilles tendon, which connects the heel bone to the calf muscles, is named after the mythical (mostly) invincible man.

What are Achilles tendon injuries?

An Achilles tendon rupture is different than a tear. While a tear affects part of the tendon, the connection between the bone and the muscles usually remains intact. A rupture, on the other hand, is when the tendon tears completely, severing that connection.

What causes an Achilles tendon rupture or injury?

For some of us, an Achilles tendon rupture is simply the result of aging and the usual wear and tear on our bodies. As we get older the tendon thins out and gets weaker and more susceptible to injury.

This thinning out/weakening can be sped up by excessive activity, which is why tendon tears and ruptures are a common injury among athletes.

And, of course, an Achilles tendon rupture can be caused by an injury. Landing particularly heavily on your foot during a fall or an unexpected step down (like when you don’t realize you’re stepping off a curb or when you step into a hole) can damage the tendon and cause a rupture.

What are the symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture or injury?

Pain. Achilles tendon ruptures are almost always associated with pain. Some people have reported feeling a “snapping” or a “popping” in the back of their leg or near their ankle right before the pain hits.

Often the initial pain will start to pass quickly, but you’ll find that you have a very difficult time moving your foot or putting any weight on it. Most of the time standing and walking are impossible after a rupture.

Knowing this, it was commendable to watch former Los Angeles super-athlete Kobe Bryant stand-up and make those free throws right after he had ruptured his Achilles tendon!

 

Treatment and prognosis of Achilles tendon injuries

Here’s the good news: it is possible to recover from an Achilles tendon rupture. Here’s the bad news: It usually takes a while. Most injuries will take around three months to recover fully. The amount of time you will need will depend on your injury, your approach to treatment and the recovery process.

Choosing treatment

There are two options available to Achilles tendon patients: (1) surgery or (2) non-surgical treatments like casting, orthotics, physical therapy, or regenerative medicine.

Considering surgery?

Surgery is the most common approach for athletes or people who lead active lifestyles. It has a good success rate, and the likelihood of future tears and ruptures is small. But, of course, there are inherent risks with any surgery, especially for the invasive techniques required to properly surgically repair Achilles tendon ruptures. The most common risks are post-op infection, clots, reactions to anesthesia, skin damage, etc. A major draw back to surgery is that the patient may not return to his or her level of activity pre-injury. Several pro-athlete careers have ended after this injury.

Alternatives to surgery

Obviously, you should get a doctor’s opinion on appropriate treatment for your injury. However, if you aren’t thrilled about the idea of surgery, there are other options available that you can explore while you’re working to stretch your tendon back out.

Noninvasive/surgical approaches can include specialized casts and orthotics, extended physical therapy, braces, etc. Depending on your injury and your commitment to recovery, some of these methods have a comparable success rate to surgery.

One of the most promising non-surgical approaches to Achilles tendon ruptures is stem cell therapy. While still relatively new, stem cell therapy for Achilles tendon ruptures is non-invasive, natural, and has a faster recovery time than surgery and traditional non-surgical treatment plans.

Stem cell treatment for Achilles Tendon ruptures & injuries

For people who don’t spend a lot of time in the world of medicine, stem cell therapies and treatments might still seem controversial. For those who are worried, know that many major advances have been made in the field of stem cells. Doctors and scientists, for example, now know how to isolate adult stem cells for treatment purposes.

This means that doctors can use a patient’s own stem cells to help treat their injuries. This alleviates the worries surrounding finding donor cells and the potential for donor cell related issues (like rejection).

Another reason stem cell therapy is popular among patients with Achilles injuries like ruptures, tendinopathy and tendinosis is that the procedure is fast. Treatment only takes a day (and often not even a full day) and occurs in an outpatient setting.

Finally, stem cells are administered via a simple injection. You won’t have to be put under for the procedure and there are no procedure or post-op complications to worry about.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the Achilles tendon?

This tendon connects your heel bone to your calf muscles, so you can move your feet.

What does it feel like to suffer an Achilles tendon injury?

It hurts. And with a complete rupture, it hurts a lot! The pain can be so severe, it’s difficult to walk or stand-up.

How do you know if you have a ruptured Achilles tendon?

Oh, trust us. You’ll know.

Can you walk with a torn Achilles tendon?

A tear? Yes, though it will be painful. A rupture? No. You won’t be able to put weight on your foot.

What causes a painful Achilles tendon?

The pain can be caused by a few things, including how you land on your foot when you cause the injury, as well as how it’s torn or ruptured.

How do you treat an Achilles tendon injury?

This depends on your injury, the treatment plan you choose and your dedication to your recovery. Work with your doctor to determine the right treatment for your individual situation.

Do Achilles tendon ruptures & injuries always require surgery?

No! There are non-surgical and non-invasive treatments available that are often just as effective as surgery. A complete rupture will most likely require surgery, although some form of post-surgery regenerative cell therapy can accelerate the healing process.

How long does it take for a torn Achilles tendon to heal?

To regain close to full strength, typically it takes 3 to 6 months depending on the injury and your treatment plan. If you undergo surgery, the recovery process could take even longer.

What kind of rehabilitation is required for an Achilles tendon rupture?

Physical therapy will be needed to keep your muscles from stiffening, to stretch the tendon back out, and to protect your range of motion.

Interested in learning more about your treatment options for Achilles tendon ruptures and? Book an evaluation to find out if PreciseCare Cell Therapy™ is right for you.

Learn more at www.PreciseCare.com. Or call 949-387-9991 to request additional information.

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About Dr. Gaurav Goswami, MD

Dr. Goswami - Stem Cell Therapy Specialist

Dr. Goswami specializes in Regenerative and Restorative Sports Medicine, providing advanced minimally invasive (non-surgical) treatments to athletes of all levels and ages. Tissue preservation, quick recovery, and little to no downtime are the cornerstones of his philosophy.

As a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, Dr. Goswami is focused on utilizing his years of experience to help his patients and athletes reach their maximum potential. Continually motivated by finding better ways to care for his patients, Dr. Goswami regularly holds public lectures and workshops to educate and help patients maintain an active lifestyle.