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Ruptured Achilles Tendon: Do You Need Surgery?

prevent a ruptured achilles tendon by stretching before exercising
Stretching can help prevent a ruptured achilles tendon.

If you have a torn or ruptured Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscle to your heel bone, you’ll probably know it.

“It’s a pretty dramatic event, usually,” says orthopedic surgeon Minton Truitt Cooper, MD.

Typically, you’ll feel a pop, or you may feel as though someone kicked you in the heel. The pain varies, but it’s usually very painful at first.

About 20 years ago, this injury almost always required surgery. Then, “in America, at least, there have been some good studies that have shown that actually you can treat these without surgery,” Cooper says.

If you don’t have surgery, the key is to not immobilize the tendon for too long, because then it won’t be strong when it heals. You’ll probably see a physical therapist and learn exercises to help your tendon heal.

Preventing a Ruptured Achilles Tendon

Some good news for those who love high heels: You’re less likely to get injured in those because the tendon isn’t stretched out.

Instead, Achilles tendon injuries tend to occur in high-impact sports that involve cutting or jumping. The most common victims, Cooper says, are men in their 30s and 40s who are sedentary during the week but play sports on weekends.

To reduce your chances of an injury:

  • Start a strengthening and stretching program
  • Warm up before you play sports

In this week’s podcast, Cooper talks about orthotics and shoes for people with Achilles tendon problems, and how you recover from these injuries. Listen to the podcast:

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