Life After Achilles Rupture

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Life after Achilles tendon rupture

Properly treated, Achilles tendon ruptures heal very well. However, full recovery takes a very long time. You can expect to be in a boot or similar support for about 10 weeks. After this it takes many months to regain the muscle strength. If you ask someone who has been through all this, they will say that they were limited in activities for at least 6 months and that full recovery takes about a year.

Even in the long-term, the calf muscle on the injured side is a little smaller than it used to be – but still strong enough to work normally.

Similarly, the healed tendon remains thicker than it once was. This improves with time (months to years) but the tendon never quite gets as slim as it was before injury.

When can I play sport again?

This depends upon the sport, but most rehabilitation programs reach the point where you can resume after 6 months.

When can I go back to physical work?

This depends upon the precise nature of the work, but most rehabilitation programs reach the point where you can resume after 6 months.

When can I walk after Achilles rupture?

Once you are supported in a suitable boot, with the foot held in a tip-toe posture, then you can (and should) walk. Crutches are only to help with balance. A shoe with a generous heel on the other foot helps to even you up. Walking on the injured leg, in the boot, is good for the healing. The action of walking helps the tendon ends to join in an efficient and strong manner. This early walking has led to fewer re-ruptures compared to previous regimens, when treatment required months of plaster casts and hopping one-legged with crutches.

How to avoid re-rupture

Wear the boot as instructed for the full 10 weeks. Don’t take any short-cuts. Your recovery is like the game Snakes and Ladders (Shutes and Ladders in the US) – each week sees you closer to the finish. But one small mistake is like landing on the big snake that takes you right back to the beginning, with a re-rupture. If you take it off to wash, be seated first; maintain the tip-toe posture; do not bend the ankle up to reach your toes to wash or dry them. If you are not sufficiently flexible get help. Do not assume that you’ll be fine, hopping into the shower. One tiny slip can be disastrous.

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