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Achilles Tendon Rupture (cont.)

Achilles Tendon Rupture Symptoms and Signs

  • A sudden and severe pain may be felt at the back of the ankle or calf -- often described as "being hit by a rock or shot" or "like someone stepped onto the back of my ankle."
  • The sound of a loud pop or snap may be reported.
  • A gap or depression may be felt and seen in the tendon about 2 inches above the heel bone.
  • Initial pain, swelling, and stiffness may be followed by bruising and weakness.
  • The pain may decrease quickly, and smaller tendons may retain the ability to point the toes. Without the Achilles tendon, though, this would be very difficult.
  • Standing on tiptoe and pushing off when walking will be impossible.
  • A complete tear is more common than a partial tear.

When to Seek Medical Care

Tendon strain or tendon inflammation (tendonitis) can occur from tendon injury or overuse and can lead to a rupture.

  • Call your doctor if you have signs of minor tendon problems.
    • Minor tenderness and possible swelling increases with activity. There is usually no specific event causing sudden pain and no obvious gap in the tendon.
    • You can still walk or stand on your toes.
    • Acute calf pain and swelling can indicate a tear or partial tear of the Achilles tendon where it meets the calf muscle. You may still be able to use that foot to walk, but you will need to see a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon. Surgery is not usually done for partial tears.
    • Sometimes special heel pads or orthotics in your shoes may help.
    • Follow up with your doctor to check for tendonitis or strain before resuming activity, because both can increase the risk of tendon rupture.
  • Any acute injury causing pain, swelling, and difficulty with weight-bearing activities such as standing and walking may indicate you have a tear in your Achilles tendon. Seek prompt medical attention from your doctor or emergency department.
    • Do not delay! Early treatment results in better outcome.
    • If you have any question or uncertainty, get it checked.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/25/2016
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