Recovering from an Achilles Tendon Rupture
This blog is designed to guide you through the processes behind rehabilitation from an Achilles tendon rupture. Although suffering this injury can be quite intimidating, and the journey may seem daunting, you can regain your strength, mobility, and confidence in your ability to move with a dedicated rehab plan. We hope this blog empowers you with knowledge to support your rehabilitation!
What is an Achilles Tendon Rupture?
The Achilles tendon is a very strong band of tissue connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone. It plays a crucial role in walking, running, and jumping. However, this tendon is susceptible to injury at times, particularly during activities involving fast and explosive actions which place large amounts of stress on the tendon. Treatment for a ruptured Achilles can involve surgery or non-operative management, which will be based on specific criteria and surgeon preferences. Regardless, rehabilitation will follow a step-by-step process which consists of different phases.
The three main phases of an Achille tendon rupture includes:
- Early Weight-bearing and Range of Motion.
- Reconditioning and Functional Retraining.
Let’s delve into each phase to understand its objectives and key components!
1. Immobilization Phase:
Immediately following the injury, immobilization in a boot with the support of crutches is required to protect the tendon and encourage healing. Initially, you will be required to be completely non-weight-bearing with crutches for a few weeks. During this phase, it’s essential to follow instructions, as it is so early post-operatively/post-injury and the injured tissue is more vulnerable to loading.
2. Early Weight-Bearing and Range of Motion:
As the healing progresses, you’ll transition into the early weight-bearing phase. Initially this will be early partial weight-bearing with the support of your crutches and boot. As you progress through this stage, you will begin to reduce the support required from the crutches and eventually be able to fully bear weight within your boot. Heel wedges are also placed under your heel to reduce the strain placed on the tendon when gradually improving weight-bearing. The number of heel wedges required is reduced week to week, with the goal of being able to walk without the support of the boot and heel wedges.
It’s also important to restore range of motion and flexibility in this phase to reduce tissue stiffness. This will begin with gentle foot and ankle movements in a non-weight bearing position, progressively increasing the range and demand as you progress to full weight-bearing.
3. Reconditioning and Functional Retraining:
Now that we have ditched the boot and crutches and are fully weight bearing with confidence, we can start to get into the fun part of rehab! This phase includes a combination of strengthening exercises, balance training, and specific functional drills tailored to your goals and activities of interest.
Strengthening of the calf muscles will be especially important! Naturally because we’ve been stuck in a boot for a few months, these muscles will inevitably become weaker and smaller. However, with a graded strengthening program we’ll be able to restore muscle size, strength and function. We also can’t forget about the rest of the chain either! Including strength exercises for other lower body muscles will help to ensure everything is firing together. Some example exercises may include specific versions of squatting, lunging, and deadlifts, all of which are integral to getting you back to a level better than you were before getting injured!
Including balance, coordination, cardio and functional exercises will also be important to returning you to your daily activities, sports, or work. As you can probably already tell, we will develop quite a comprehensive program to address any remaining deficits to optimise your rehab!
Rehabilitation from an Achilles tendon rupture requires dedication, perseverance, and expert guidance. By following a structured rehabilitation program, incorporating targeted exercises, and staying committed to your recovery goals, you can achieve a successful outcome and regain confidence in your ability to move and thrive.
Your journey to recovery may have challenges, but with determination and support, you can overcome them and emerge stronger than ever. Stay motivated, stay focused, and remember that each step forward brings you closer to reclaiming your active lifestyle!