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Getting Active Again After an Achilles Tendon Injury

Apr 13, 2023
Getting Active Again After an Achilles Tendon Injury
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and also one of the most injured. Find out how to get active again after an injury.

Quick, what’s the largest tendon in the human body?

If you said the Achilles tendon (and you really should have, given the title of this post), you’re right.

But even though the Achilles is the largest tendon, it’s also vulnerable to injury. It accounts for 30% of sports injuries every year.

At Austin Foot & Ankle Institute in Austin and Cedar Park, Texas, one of our specialties is treating Achilles tendon injuries and helping patients become active again after such an injury. Here’s our best advice on how to do just that.

What’s an Achilles tendon injury?

The Achilles tendon is a thick, strong, fibrous band of tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone and bears the stress of walking, running, and jumping. If you injure your tendon, the pain and loss of function can greatly interfere with your daily life.

The two main types of Achilles injuries are chronic tendonitis, when the tendon swells and becomes inflamed, and acute rupture, when the tendon tears or breaks.

Treatment options for Achilles injuries

Treatment depends on the severity of your injury. With tendonitis, your doctor may prescribe noninvasive treatments, including rest, activity modification, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, icing, and wearing a walking boot.

You may also need physical therapy with exercises to stretch the calf and heel.

If you’ve torn your Achilles tendon, you probably need surgery, followed by an extensive rehabilitation process that can last up to a year.

Getting active again after an Achilles tendon injury

Returning to normal activity after an Achilles tendon injury also depends on your injury. Tendonitis doesn’t involve actual damage to the tendon, so you may be active again after a few weeks of rest, icing, and physical therapy. 

Physical therapy accomplishes a few things aside from pain relief. Your physical therapist ensures your legs, ankles, knees, and feet move the way they should so you don’t continue to strain your Achilles tendon. You also work on improving your muscle strength and balance. 

As your therapy progresses, you can perform more and more movements until you’re back to normal.

If you have surgery, you undergo a demanding rehab routine to get back to pre-injury activity levels. Expect to wear a cast or boot for a few weeks as you start physical therapy to rebuild your strength and balance.

You may be back to normal activity 4-6 months after your surgery, but your tendon won’t be fully recovered until about a year after surgery. 

Your timeline depends on how your body responds to treatment and how closely you follow your rehab routine. The harder you work, the faster your recovery.

If you’re dealing with an Achilles injury and need treatment or advice, the expert team at Austin Foot & Ankle Institute is here to serve you. Call the office closest to you or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment so you can return to action as soon as possible.