Tendons are bands of connective tissue that join muscles with bones. The role of a tendon is to transfer the force created by muscle into a nearby bone to facilitate the movement of your joints. While tendons are structured to withstand significant degrees of force, they can become damaged or tear as a result of extreme intensity.
The tendons in your feet work together to stabilize your feet and ankles. When one of these tendons becomes injured, it can cause discomfort when you stand or walk. The most serious type of tendon injury is a torn tendon, a condition that makes it difficult or impossible to take a step or apply weight to your foot.
Multiple tendons run from your lower leg to your foot. The Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscle to your heel bone, runs down the back of your lower leg. It is the largest tendon in your body and one of the most commonly injured.
If you believe you’ve experienced a torn tendon in your foot or ankle, it’s important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Achilles tendon specialist Michael V. Tran, DPM, and the staff at AllCare Foot & Ankle Center in Arlington and Dallas, Texas, specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of tendon tears and other tendon injuries. Based on a thorough examination and the results of diagnostic tests, Dr. Tran determines the source of your symptoms and an appropriate treatment plan to relieve discomfort and restore normal movement.
In this blog, Dr. Tran discusses the signs of a torn tendon and what to expect if you experience this type of injury.
A torn tendon, also called a ruptured tendon, is a tearing and separation of the fibers that make up the tendon. This type of damage to the tendon makes it unable to function normally.
Most tears in the Achilles tendon occur in the substance of the tendon so that there is a gap between the upper and lower portions of the tendon. The most common location is about 4-6 cm above the heel.
The Achilles tendon can also tear away from its insertion on the heel bone, resulting in a complete detachment. This may cause a fragment of bone to be pulled away from the heel by the tendon, causing the tendon to disconnect from the bone.
A torn tendon usually occurs when the tendon is suddenly stretched beyond its capacity. In the foot, this typically involves forceful pivoting or jumping that stresses the calf muscle. It can also result from a sudden acceleration of running or a traumatic fall or injury.
Most tears of the Achilles tendon are sports-related, occurring during intense physical activity, running, or jumping. While the tear happens suddenly, it is often the result of an accumulation of smaller tears that have occurred over time and have reached their breaking point.
While a torn tendon can affect anyone, tears in the Achilles tendon typically affect people between the ages of 30 and 50 years old who are recreational athletes. In many cases, these individuals may attempt to do too much too soon without proper training.
Research indicates one reason for the higher incidence of Achilles tendon tears in this age group is the age-related changes that occur in the physiology of the Achilles tendon and its mechanics.
While symptoms of a torn tendon can vary by individual and location of the tear, individuals who experience a torn Achilles tendon often experience one or more of the following physical signs:
With prompt and appropriate treatment, most tendon tears can be repaired so that you can return to sports and other activities. Treatment for a torn Achilles tendon depends on several factors including the type and location of the tear, the degree of damage, and your overall condition.
Nonoperative treatment typically includes immobilization of the affected leg with casting with the foot and ankle flexed downward. This positions the two ends of the broken tendon closer together so they can naturally fuse together and heal.
Surgery may be recommended if you are a young or middle-aged adult, especially if you’re athletically active. The procedure involves attaching the two ends of the torn tendon together with sutures. This restores length and tension to the torn tendon.
Postsurgery recovery involves immobilizing the affected leg in a splint, cast, or walking boot. Physical therapy is typically recommended when the affected tendon starts to heal.
If you’re experiencing signs of a torn tendon, prompt medical attention can give you the best chance of healing and returning to normal activities as soon as possible. To schedule a consultation, book online or call our Dallas or Arlington office today.