Achilles Tendon Rupture - Symptoms and Signs

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What are Achilles tendon rupture symptoms and signs?

Background history

  • Patients with an Achilles tendon rupture will often complain of a sudden snap in the back of the leg. The pain is often intense.
  • With a complete rupture, the individual will only be ambulate with a limp. Most people will not be able to climb stairs, run, or stand on their toes.
  • Swelling around the calf may occur.
  • Patients may often have had a sudden increase in exercise or intensity of activity.
  • Some patients may have had recent corticosteroid injections or use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics.
  • Some athletes may have had a prior injury to the tendon.

Physical exam

  • When Achilles tendon injury is suspected, the entire lower lag is examined for swelling, bruising, and tenderness. If there is a full rupture, a gap in the tendon may be noted.
  • Patients will not be able to stand on the toes if there is a complete Achilles tendon rupture.
  • Several tests can be performed to look for Achilles tendon rupture. One of the most widely used tests is called the Thompson test. The patient is asked to lie down on the stomach and the examiner squeezes the calf area. In normal people, this leads to flexion of the foot. With Achilles tendon injury, this movement is not seen.
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Comment from: Susan, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: May 01

Last Autumn I"d been working out about 10 - 12 hours a week in my gym when half way through a set of jumping lunges in a boot camp class I wobbled and something "went". I actually carried on for 3 weeks before finally seeing my doctor thinking it a nasty sprain. A trip to Accident & Emergency confirmed a ruptured right Achilles. I"ve had 4 months off work, 2.5 weeks in cast, 10 weeks in support boot with wedges, and several weeks of physiotherapy to date. I"m finally back in work and driving again and currently still have pain and a limp but am improving all the time. I live alone and got through it all with some real practical help from my friends. I now know all about supermarket mobility scooters, how much cat food will fit in a rucksack on a trip to the local shop on crutches, and even how much you can do with a personal trainer in your gym whilst wearing a support boot etc. Good luck if you are at the start of this journey and don"t just think you have to sit on your sofa watching TV.

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Comment from: Murphy"s Law, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: June 04

I had broken my foot and was a week away from getting my cast off when it happened. I had started to lean forward and I fell. As I was falling, I heard a loud snap and felt intense pain at the back of my foot. The hospital did x-rays with the cast on and said there were no new breaks. Two days later I went to see my foot and ankle doctor. He cut the cast off and my foot was severely swollen and bruised. He examined it and said I had torn my Achilles tendon. He said I was not a good candidate for surgery and re-cast it. He said it would have to be in a non-weight-bearing cast for up to 4 months and then in a boot for another 6 to 12 weeks. I was tired of wearing the cast so I bought an air cast and am now wearing it. It has been 3 weeks and I am still in a good amount of pain. I was prescribed tramadol (50mg every 4 to 6 hours). I try to only take it when I am going to sleep or if I cannot bear the pain.

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