Congenital defects or heavy athletic activities are just two roads to an Achilles tendon ruptures. But regardless of which of the many likely causes is to blame there are really only a couple of ways to deal with the damaged tendon.
Once your physician has examined the tendon damage and has evaluated the extent of it chances are the options are twofold, one being surgical and the other being some combination of immobilization and physical therapy. If this is your first serious injury physical therapy may have a foreign sound to it and you may also have some misconceptions about the extent of the time needed to get back to normal activities. Depending on how badly your Achilles tendon is ruptured you may be walking again almost immediately. But in more severe cases you may need surgery very soon and might not walk again for several weeks, even with the assistance of a removable, boot-like walking cast which inhibits ankle movement almost completely.
As for the benefits of surgery vs. the sacrifices such as mobility, recovery time, and long term decrease in calf muscle strength many studies have been conducted but it’s hard to derive a consensus from them regarding whether patients have less instances of recurring injury or greater calf strength with either the surgical or the non-surgical approaches.
Some studies have concluded with recommendations that younger and more active people always obtain the surgical repair while others have negated a significant advantage by one repair strategy over the other. What this may mean for you, if you’ve ruptured your Achilles tendon, is that despite the seriousness of the injury your physician may give you only an opinion and in some cases only the options for you to be the one to choose from. If you do choose the surgical approach here are some critical points to remain conscious of prior to and after surgery.
1. The physical therapy and massage techniques are not just important in order to stimulate proper cell growth and tissue formation but are also needed in order to avoid undesired attachment of tissues during healing. If this type of tissue attachment occurs you will likely feel a good deal more stiffness in your leg when you begin walking once more without the walking cast.
2. Home exercises are key to proper healing and return of strength and range of motion. Physical therapy sessions alone will not get the same result.
3. Be prepared to deal with the emotional aspects of losing mobility, particularly if you were a very active person prior to the injury. This is part of the healing that your physician and surgeon may not mention since many people are uncomfortable talking about their emotions or moods. Try to plan ahead and if you live alone do whatever you can to ensure that your mind will be active even when your body isn’t.
4. Pain after the repair surgery can be intense in some cases. Talk with your surgeon about any reactions you may have had to pain medication in the past such as nausea. The last thing you want during the first day or two after surgery is to be without any relief from the pain.
The worst part about being given a choice in matters such as this is often the what ifs that plague you afterwards. But whether you opt for one type of surgery or another or no surgery at all you should be prepared for this injury to take time to heal.