Your Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body, and it plays a critical role in your ability to stand, walk, run, and jump. So when injury strikes, you need to do all you can to regain the full functionality of this critical connective tissue. More often than not, time is key.
At Jersey Foot & Ankle Institute, under the experienced direction of Dr. Ankur Dharia, our podiatric team offers a wide range of services that are designed to help our clients put one healthy foot in front of the other. If you’re experiencing problems with your Achilles tendon, here’s what you need to know about the correct way to heal this important area.
A pain in the ankle
When it comes to your Achilles tendon, two main types of problems dictate your recovery to a large degree.
In the first, you may rupture or tear your Achilles tendon, either partially or completely. Achilles tendon tears usually develop on the heels of repetitive stresses on this connective tissue.
For example, this can happen if you’ve recently increased your activity levels, started a new sport, or you routinely engage in an activity that places stress on your Achilles tendon through jumping and pivoting (think basketball or tennis).
This sudden, added stress weakens your tendon, and if you don’t take it easy, the tendon may tear.
The second-most common cause of Achilles tendon pain is tendonitis, which is characterized by inflammation in the tissue due to tiny tears. Tendonitis typically develops gradually due to overuse. For example, daily runners are more apt to develop Achilles tendonitis because of the constant pounding on pavement.
Tying the two conditions together, you’re more prone to a tear or rupture if your Achilles tendon is already weakened by tendonitis.
Healing from your Achilles tendon injury
The time it takes to heal from an Achilles tendon injury depends upon the extent of the injury. Let’s start with the best-case scenario: You come to see us at the first signs of pain. When you do this, we can take a look to determine whether tendonitis has set in and get you started on a treatment plan that typically involves:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
Of the items on this list, rest is the key. Your Achilles tendonitis developed because of overuse, so you need to dial back the stress to allow time for your tendon to heal.
If your Achilles tendon tears or ruptures, you may require surgery, which is usually the case for full ruptures. If your tear is minor, we treat it as we do tendonitis, but if your tear is fairly major, we’ll likely put you in a walking boot for several weeks to several months so you can avoid a full tear (and surgery).
Healing from a moderate or complete tear of your Achilles tendon requires patience on your part. We’re not going to sugarcoat it — it typically lasts 6-12 weeks in a boot and then another few months of limited activity.
But your patience is rewarded as you’re able to get back to your active life with a tendon that’s fully healed, minimizing your threat of re-injury.
The bottom line is that the sooner we’re able to diagnose a problem, the shorter your recovery time will be. So if you’re experiencing pain in your Achilles tendon, contact us so that we can help you avoid a much larger issue down the road.