The healing time of an Achilles tendon rupture depends on the severity of the rupture. If the tendon is completely torn, the duration of therapy is usually at least 6-8 weeks. The strain on the tendon should be slowly increased again and only return to the initial level after about 3 months. Heavy loads, such as in high-performance sports, should only be reapplied after about 6 months.
After the initial strong, stabbing pain, the patient is almost pain-free after a short time. The swelling that was mentioned in the symptoms is not always present. Nevertheless, a doctor must be consulted as soon as possible in every case. This is of fundamental importance for the correct diagnosis and subsequent therapy (see : Diagnosis). After an Achilles tendon rupture, only first aid measures can be carried out, which are limited to cooling the heel region and avoiding the occurrence on the injured leg, supporting the patient while walking (by supporting the patient, walking aids (crutches), if necessary also by a transport couch).
Prophylactically it can only be stated here that regular sporting activities have a positive effect on the elasticity of the entire muscle and tendon apparatus. At this point, the avoidance of abrupt and strong strains could be mentioned. Also the avoidance of special “risk sports” (squash games) could be mentioned. Athletically active people should pay attention to a proper warm-up phase before the sport. Stretching exercises – especially after sporting activity – also serve as prophylaxis.
Prognostically, a rupture of the Achilles tendon can be considered good. In the case of ideal therapy and appropriate rehabilitative measures, the performance level before the accident can be reached again under certain circumstances. Often, however, a rupture of the Achilles tendon means the end of the career for top athletes, especially for those who have qualified in jumping and/or running sports.
With regard to the form of therapy, it should be said that the prognosis is statistically better after surgical therapy than after conservative therapy. While about 4% of patients with surgical therapy develop new tears, the rate of conservative therapy is about 15%. However, postoperative swelling often results in longer lasting swelling. Patients also report numbness in the heel and ankle area.
Historical about the term Achilles
The name of the Achilles tendon goes back to the hero of the Greek ancient Achilles. He was the son of the immortal sea goddess Thetis and the mortal Peleus. To make her son immortal as well, his mother immersed him as a child in the waters of the underworld river Styx.
Through contact with the river water Achilles became invulnerable and later one of the greatest heroes of Troy. The only vulnerable part of his body was his heel. That’s where his mother had held him when he was immersed in the river at the time. According to the legend, Achilles was killed by an arrow of Paris in his heel.