Non-Surgical Rehabilitation for Achilles Tendon Injuries
Achilles tendon ruptures happen when there is a sudden stress to the achilles tendon and usually occur with running and jumping activities or from falls. This mostly leads to significant functional limitations and difficulty walking due to a disruption in the muscle-tendon junction.
Achilles Tendon Treatment Options
Treatment options normally involve surgery to reconstruct the tendon as well as non-surgical immobilization and physical therapy. The Centers for Advanced Orthopedics Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Center offer both treatment options for patients. The Physical Therapy Department has been using treatment protocols created by Emory University Health Clinic in treating non-surgical achilles tendon ruptures. This normally involves a period of immobilization in the boot with heel risers for the first eight weeks after the injury.
Crutches are initially needed to get comfortable into gradually putting weight onto the involved foot until patients are fully walking in just the boot. Throughout this phase, Therapists work with improving range of motion, soft tissue healing as well as strength training to the rest of the muscles of the hips and knees while in the boot. Care is given to avoid any achilles/calf stretches for the first six months post injury.
8 Weeks Post Injury
At eight weeks post injury, patients are normally weaned into elevator type shoes from the boot. These shoes come with a built-in heel riser that allows for optimal function of the calf muscle while being maintained in a shortened position for proper healing. These shoes have significantly helped patients resume normal gait at a faster rate with emphasis on the heel to toe off part of gait which has been chronically difficult for patients with weak calf muscles to attain.
10 Weeks Post Injury
At ten weeks post injury, calf strengthening is emphasized from double to single leg support and they are gradually weaned into returning to a walking program. Most patients end at the twelve week mark for basic function but physical therapy may last up to 18 weeks for more active/impact goals.