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Injuring the Largest Tendon in the Body

Injuring the Achilles tendon is painful. It’s the largest tendon in your body, and it is also responsible for the movements that the foot makes. If it becomes injured, walking becomes difficult and painful. Fortunately, there are options for Achilles repair and Achilles surgery. We are happy to offer both at our Rancho Santa Margarita and Newport Beach area podiatry clinic. 

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How Does the Achilles Tendon Become Injured?

There are many ways that the Achilles tendon can become injured, but generally it won’t become injured through normal daily activities. A sudden large force or suddenly pivoting can cause it to tear. If your foot already naturally turns outward, you’re more at risk for this happening. A sudden increase in physical activity can also put more strain on your Achilles tendon and cause damage. Another type of damage is called tendinopathy (or “tendonitis”). This is a degeneration of the Achilles tendon and comes from overuse or unusual stress to the tendon.

Does Injury Always Require a Doctor?

If the damage to the Achilles tendon is minor, you may not need treatment from a doctor because it may heal on its own. Resting, icing, and using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen may restore your foot to its full function. However, it’s important to always visit a doctor if you think you’ve damaged your Achilles tendon. It will be up to your doctor to decide if the damage is severe enough to require medical Achilles repair.

How is Treatment Selected?

There are several factors that will determine if you need Achilles surgery, including your age, general health, and the degree of damage present. If you don’t want to have Achilles surgery or your doctor doesn’t advise it, there are other options for Achilles repair you can try first. Bear in mind, however, that with larger ruptures, patients who undergo Achilles surgery at Rancho Santa Margarita have a more complete recovery.

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Non-Surgical Treatment: Casting the Foot

The most common non-surgical Achilles repair is to cast the foot, which keeps it in the correct position to give the Achilles tendon a rest and allow it to heal on its own. 

The cast will go from the toes to above the knee, and will start out by positioning the foot in a way in which the toes point downward. The cast will be changed out over the next several weeks, with the position of your foot slowly being moved back to normal. The entire process takes between 6-12 weeks. Heel lifts and physical therapy may be prescribed after the cast comes off to fully restore function to your foot.

Surgery for Achilles Repair

Some Achilles repair can be done laparoscopically, with tiny incisions instead of cutting into the skin with a larger incision. Candidacy for this treatment depends on the scope of the damage. Before surgery, imaging tests such as an x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI will be used to give the doctor a better idea of the severity of the damage and how much repair is necessary.

Spinal sedation is generally used for Achilles surgery. This numbs you from the waist down and dissipates quickly once it’s removed. The surgeon makes the incision on the back of the calf and works down to the tendon. Depending on the extent of the damage, he or she may be able to repair the tendon with stitches. If the damage is extensive, the tendon may have to be replaced with a tendon from another part of the foot.

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Foot & Ankle Specialty Group for Achilles Repair

If you’re seeking Achilles surgery or repair, our team of surgeons is happy to help you get back on your feet. Foot & Ankle Specialty Group is a podiatry clinic that has been serving the Rancho Santa Margarita and Newport Beach area since 2001. We are a nurturing female doctor group led by American Board of Podiatric Surgery Fellow Dr. Salma Aziz, with Dr. Petrina Yokay and Dr. Jessica Arneson rounding out the team. Our practice is about getting people back to activity and back to their lives.

Recovery 

After your Achilles surgery in Newport Beach, you’ll be in the recovery room for a few hours. Your foot will be in a splint, and medication will be given for pain control and swelling. You may also be instructed to elevate your foot and put ice on it. After approximately ten days, the stitches can be removed. If the swelling has subsided, your foot will likely be put in a cast to keep it immobile. Sometimes a removable boot can be used instead of a cast.

After removal of the cast, you may need to undergo physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in your foot after being immobile for several weeks. Your physical therapist will instruct you on how to prevent further damage to your Achilles tendon. Your physical therapist will also show you strengthening exercises to be done at home. It can take 4-6 months to be back to normal activity after an Achilles repair.

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