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Achilles Tendon Tear

An Achilles tendon tear is a rupture of the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. The severity of this injury can range from a partial tear to a full tear. Individuals with a full tear typically experience sudden, sharp pain in the back of the ankle or calf, often accompanied by a popping or snapping sound. Symptoms of an Achilles tendon tear can range from mild discomfort to intense pain that restricts normal walking or running activities, significantly impacting daily tasks and overall quality of life.

typical causes:

An Achilles tendon tear typically results from a sudden increase in stress on the tendon, particularly during activities that involve running, jumping, or sudden changes in direction. This type of injury is common in sports that require explosive movements, such as basketball, tennis, football, and soccer. It can also occur during simple activities like climbing stairs, changing directions while walking, tripping, or stepping on an uneven surface.

Training plan errors, such as increasing the intensity or frequency of exercise too quickly, are often associated with an Achilles tendon tear. Those who engage in sports or activities that demand high physical exertion and repetitive stress on the Achilles tendon are particularly susceptible. Other significant risk factors include previous injury to the Achilles tendon, inadequate warm-ups prior to physical activities, and poor sleep habits. Maintaining good overall fitness and taking proper precautions can help mitigate these risks.

how physical therapy can help:

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the management and recovery of an Achilles tendon tear by reducing symptoms, restoring function, and preventing recurrence. Through a tailored treatment plan, physical therapists aim to alleviate pain and inflammation, improve joint mobility, and restore strength of the affected muscles. Manual therapy techniques may be utilized early on to reduce pain and restore movement of the joint and affected tendon. Strengthening exercises are gradually progressed to improve the resilience of the Achilles tendon and restore proper function of the ankle and foot, enabling the individual to complete daily tasks and physical activities without pain.

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exercises that may help:

The following exercises can be trialed by individuals who suspect a partial Achilles tendon tear. It is important to keep symptoms pain-free during these exercises. Avoid any movements that increase symptoms in the affected Achilles tendon. In addition to these movements, it is advised to visit with your primary care physician or physical therapist to get started on a more detailed and tailored program. 

These exercises are not appropriate for those with a complete tear of the Achilles tendon and those individuals should seek medical advice instead.  

Standing Calf Stretch Stand facing a wall with the affected leg in the trail position. Your hands can be on the wall for support. While keeping the heel of the trail leg on the ground, move your pelvis forward until you feel a stretch in the calf muscles of the trail leg. Hold the stretch for 1-2 minutes and repeat this stretch 2-3 times per day. Keep this movement pain-free and work at an appropriate intensity.

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Resisted Ankle Plantar Flexion with a Resistance Band Start in a seated position with the affected leg extended and a resistance band wrapped around the bottom of the foot. Push your toes away from you to increase the tension in the resistance band. Slowly return to your starting position. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 reps. Choose a resistance that allows for you to perform this exercise without pain. 

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Heel Raise Start by standing at the edge of the step with heels hanging off the edge. Hold onto a railing or the wall if you need support. Push yourself up onto your tip-toes then slowly lower to the starting position. The key is the lowering phase and it is important to go at a slow and controlled pace with this. You can perform this movement from the floor if it is too intense to perform on a step. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 reps. This movement should be performed pain-free. Hold off from this if you are having pain.

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