How to Care for a Torn or Pulled Achilles or Heel Tendon

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Issues affecting the heel tendon known as the Achilles tendon are common among athletes and are usually heralded by the appearance of pain, swelling or irritation in the back of the lower leg or calf. Trouble with this tendon can stem from numerous causes including overuse, lack of conditioning, improperly fitted shoes, age and weak spots in the tendon due to prior injury. Once inflammation or prior damage occurs, there is a greater chance of injury to the area.

Rest is a primary treatment for any severe or overuse injury. The body needs time to recover and, during this time, movement and use should be limited or eliminated.

Seek physical therapy. Treatment techniques include massage, heat and ultrasound therapy. The therapist may also recommend a lift, a device placed in the shoe which can relieve stress on the affected area as it heals.

Stretching is important but must be done with care. Begin with gentle, mild stretches and gradually work toward more involved stretching activity, but do so only when pain is absent and the degree of discomfort is minimal.

Rehabilitate the area through strength-building exercises that engage muscles of the lower leg. The calf muscles should receive special attention as they can help support the injured area and possibly prevent a recurrence of injury.

Surgery may be necessary for a severe tear or rupture. A physician must evaluate the tear and decide whether it will benefit from reattachment, a graft or other intervention.

Tips & Warnings

  • Seek rehabilitation applicable to your specific sport to obtain better results if you are an athlete. Prevent injury through awareness; tendons weakened through age, inflammation or prior injury require an extra measure of care during activity.
  • Do not ignore sudden onset of severe pain, especially during activity. Seek medical attention if you hear a snap and then experience issues with leg function or notice swelling in the lower leg.

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