runner holding achilles tendon in pain

Do you remember the Greek myth about the warrior Achilles? According to the myth, Achilles’ mother dipped him in the River Styx to make him immune to all wounds. Holding him by the heel, she left that tiny area as his one vulnerability.

This classic myth gives us the name of the Achilles tendon, which is located in your heel. And if you experience an Achilles tendon tear, you might feel like a warrior who has been laid low. That’s because tearing your Achilles tendon comes with immediate and severe pain. It also makes walking difficult—and it sidelines you from any athletic activity.

So what should you do if you hear the telltale pop and feel the intense pain in your heel that signals an Achilles tendon tear? It perhaps goes without saying that you need to see a doctor right away. A delay in getting care can slow—or even prevent—a full recovery from your injury.

Surgical Repair Is the Primary Option for a Torn Achilles Tendon

For most people, especially those with an active lifestyle to which they are eager to return, having foot and ankle surgery to repair the torn Achilles tendon is the best option. Except in cases when the tear is quite small, the injury is unlikely to heal on its own without surgical intervention. And so, unless the damage is too severe to repair or a medical or other condition prevents it, your doctor is likely to recommend a surgical procedure.

Ideally, that procedure will take place fairly soon after the injury. An orthopedic surgeon will mend the torn or ruptured tendon, which can be done with an ordinary incision or with a much smaller incision and specialized equipment designed to minimize invasiveness. In some cases, the surgeon will need to take part of another tendon in the foot to repair the Achilles tendon.

Achilles tendon repair surgery is generally performed while the patient is awake. The affected area will, of course, be numbed prior to the operation.

Getting On the Road to Recovery

After surgery, you will likely be eager to get back to your daily activities—including the exercise or athletic endeavors you enjoy. But the fact is that the recovery and rehabilitation process following your procedure will take some time. The process includes:

  • Wearing a cast or removable boot for four to six weeks
  • The gradual flexing of the affected foot under your physician’s guidance
  • A period of physical therapy that will include exercises to strengthen your calf and foot muscles and to improve your range of motion
  • Returning to full activity while also taking care to minimize the risk of reinjuring your tendon

In this period of recovery, patience will be required. In the early going, while a person is in a cast or boot, it may not be possible for them to drive—and they will likely need to use crutches. From the date of surgery, it may well be eight weeks before strengthening exercises can begin. A person may begin exercising around three months after surgery, but athletes generally won’t return to the rigors of their sport for about six months. In some cases, recovery can take even longer.

In the end, however, a properly repaired and rehabbed Achilles tendon can get you back to doing the things you love.

If You Are Injured, We Can Help

Waiting to have an Achilles injury attended to can make repair and recovery much more difficult—or even impossible. If you suspect you have torn your Achilles tendon, you need to be evaluated right away.

At InStride Carolina Podiatry Group, we have the experience and expertise to ensure you get the care you need to make a full recovery from an Achilles tendon tear or other traumatic foot or ankle injury. Contacting us today will get you on the road to recovery in no time.