Our torn Achilles rehabilitation program is based around three stages. The first is allowing your tendon to heal, followed by restoring normal ankle/knee mobility and strength before a gradual return to activity.
How long will Achilles rupture rehabilitation take?
A complete rupture of the Achilles tendon is a serious injury and rehabilitation should be a very gradual process taking up to a year to complete.
The speed at which a particular client progresses with the rehabilitation exercises varies, depending on overall pre-injury health and activity level. Timescales indicated are only a rough guide. It is important you work under the supervision of a physiotherapist and a doctor.
This follows a similar pattern to that of the surgical approach, although takes a lot longer. Your medical professional will apply a plaster in a plantarflexed position (toes and foot pointing down). Sometimes, after four weeks they apply a new cast with less plantar flexion. After 8 weeks the tendon has usually healed.
Surgical approach to torn Achilles rehabilitation
Most Achilles tendon ruptures are treated surgically, especially with young athletes or active people. The following is an example of a rehabilitation and exercise program for a complete Achilles tendon rupture. We recommend seeking physiotherapy advice or from your surgeon before attempting any rehabilitation exercises. The following is just an illustration, to help provide insight:
Week 1 to 8
Apply a plaster cast after surgery. No stretching or exercise, just rest and let it heal. You may be able to work your upper body, or focus on another aspect of your sport. Try to do something positive and stay in some kind of routine that you would if you were fully fit. It will certainly help your state of mind.
Week 8 onwards
Stage 1 – range of motion and flexibility.
Place heel raises (1-2cm) in shoes to take some of the pressure off the Achilles tendon. Sports massage techniques such as PNF practiced at VanCity Physio or VanCity Physio’s Shockwave Therapy can aid torn Achilles rehabilitation by creating new blood vessels, breaking through scar tissue and calcified deposits.
Active stretching. Pull your toes upwards to stretch the Achilles tendon. Very gently at first and gradually build up. If active stretches are not painful then you can begin passive stretches. This involves someone or something assisting in the stretching process.
When a full range of motion has returned (the ruptured leg is as flexible as the other leg) then a gradual strengthening program can start.
Balance exercises should also be introduced as the sense of balance and positioning is often decreased after tendon or ligament ruptures and if not re-gained, can lead to future injuries. Wobble boards (balance boards) are great for this. VanCity Physio’s Kinesiologists are very knowledgeable and a great addition to your active rehab program.
Stage 2: Strengthening for torn Achilles rehabilitation
You must take great care when starting strengthening exercises for an Achilles rupture. There is a fine line between strengthening the tendon and re-injuring it. You can start strengthening exercises as soon as they can be tolerated. It may be a full month after the cast comes off before exercises can begin. The client may feel a little pain when you first start these exercises. If the pain is intolerable then do not continue. Gradually each day the pain should be less. The athlete should not attempt to increase the level of exercise until there is no pain during or after the exercises. The strengthening exercises must be done after a gentle warm-up and stretch. The muscles can be warmed up by raising the heels up and down on the toes while seated. Heat applied directly to the tendon for example can also help. Flexibility training must be continued throughout. Remember to apply cold therapy or ice after exercise, this will help keep inflammation and swelling under control. Avoid explosive or ballistic movements or this may lead to a re-rupture. Our trained and certified VanCity Kinesiologists as well as Clinical Pilates Instructors can greatly aid in you active recover, which are all Physio directed programs.
How long until I am back to full fitness?
Most athletes can expect to be out of competition for 6 to 9 months after surgery. This is increased to 12 months if the Achilles was immobilized in plaster instead of operated on. There is also a greater risk of re-injury if the athlete does not have the surgery.
At VanCity Physio, we’re experts when it comes to Sports Injuries. Our team of Physios, Kinesiologists, and Clinical Pilates Instructors work to maximize your rehabilitation and optimize you for fast recovery.