If you suspect you may have an Achilles tendon rupture, symptoms will be hard to ignore. Here are the signs you may need to see a doctor.

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An Achilles tendon rupture is a painful and debilitating injury.

It’s caused by severe stretching of the Achilles tendon — usually beyond its normal capacity — which results in the tendon rupturing or separating from the heel.

This article discusses the most common symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture.

The Achilles tendon is a long, thick band of connective tissue that attaches your calf muscles (i.e., the gastrocnemius and soleus) to your heel bone.

It’s the longest and strongest tendon in the body and is meant to endure a lot of stress from daily activities and sports.

In fact, the Achilles tendon helps you walk, run, jump, and stand on your toes by allowing plantar flexion — the ability for your foot to point downward.

Though the Achilles tendon can withstand a lot of pressure, it can rupture when it’s stretched beyond its breaking point. This injury usually occurs with sudden forceful calf contractions, or stop and go activities like basketball and tennis.

The most notable symptom is a loud “pop” accompanied by sharp pain. It’s important to note that symptoms will vary depending on the severity and nature of injury.

Common symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture include:

  • a sudden sharp pain in the back of the calf muscle that may gradually turn into an ache
  • the sensation that someone has kicked you in the back of the leg
  • swelling of the back of the calve and/or heel
  • bruising and/or discoloration of the back of the calve and/or heel
  • difficulty walking up the stairs, on a slope, or in general
  • difficulty standing on your toes
  • difficulty pushing off the injured foot
  • tenderness in the back of the lower leg

In some cases, you may only have a partial tear. This means the Achilles tendon has not completely separated from the heel or has not completely torn apart.

You may have some pain or discomfort, but you may not have as much difficulty with movement.

There is some debate as to whether a partial rupture can be mistaken as Achilles tendinopathy or tendinitis, which involves inflammation and microtears on the Achilles tendon. That said, it’s still helpful to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.

If you suspect that you’ve ruptured your Achilles tendon, it’s important to seek medical attention.

In most cases, a ruptured Achilles tendon requires treatment to heal properly. If it’s not taken care of, it may not heal properly, and you may be at higher risk of reinjury.

Your healthcare professional will first perform an initial assessment to determine the type of injury. This will likely include a physical exam and discussion on the cause of injury.

In particular, they will look at your ankle and calf muscles, assess their ability to move in various directions, and review how they respond to pressure. They’ll also feel the Achilles tendon to check for a rupture or a “tendon gap,” which is a space where the tendon has ruptured.

They will likely perform a Thompson test, which involves squeezing the calf muscle to see if the foot points downward. If it does not, this is a sign the Achilles tendon has ruptured.

If they suspect you’ve ruptured your Achilles tendon, they may also order an MRI or ultrasound to determine the severity of the injury.

How is a ruptured Achilles tendon treated?

Treatment for most Achilles tendon ruptures involves immobilizing the foot with a cast, physical therapy, and surgery.

How long does a ruptured Achilles tendon take to heal?

While each person’s recovery will be different, most people can start to resume their typical activities within 4 to 6 months. But it can take up to a year for a full recovery.

Can you walk on a ruptured Achilles tendon?

You can still walk with a ruptured Achilles tendon, but it may be sore or painful when walking up the stairs.

Can a ruptured Achilles tendon heal itself?

If you have a severe and complete rupture, you will likely need surgery. If you choose to forego treatment, you may be more likely to rupture it again.

If you think you’ve ruptured your Achilles tendon, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms.

Common signs of an Achilles tendon rupture include a loud “pop”, intense pain at the onset of injury, and difficulty standing on your toes or walking up the stairs.

It’s important to seek medical attention if you’ve injured your Achilles tendon to make sure you get proper treatment. Without it, you may be at higher risk of reinjury, and your injury may not properly heal.

Fortunately, you can fully recover from an Achilles tendon rupture if you identify the symptoms and get appropriate treatment.