The Achilles tendon is the thick band of fibrous tissue located at the back of the lower leg. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, allowing us to push off the foot while walking, running, or jumping. Although the Achilles tendon is the largest, strongest tendon in the body, it can be prone to injury due to the stress placed on it.
There are many different types of Achilles tendon injuries. Achilles tendonitis, one of the most common Achilles tendon injuries, is an inflammation of the tendon due to repetitive strain and overuse. Tendinitis causes pain and stiffness at the back of the heel. Achilles tendonosis refers to a gradual thickening and weakening of the Achilles tendon due to overuse or aging. More serious injuries to the Achilles tendon are tears or full ruptures. An Achilles tendon tear can be small or large, and may cause symptoms such as pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected leg. A rupture occurs when the tendon tears completely, and is accompanied by intense pain and swelling.
How long it takes to recover from an Achilles tendon injury depends on the type and severity of the injury, as well as the treatments that are used and the patient’s lifestyle factors and compliance with the doctor's orders. Less severe injuries may take several weeks to heal. More severe injuries, like a full rupture, may require surgery and can take several months to heal completely.
You may still be able to walk with an Achilles tendon injury, though it is likely you will experience at least some degree of pain or discomfort, and can have trouble pushing off of the injured foot. However, while you may be able to walk, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Achilles tendon ruptures are often treated with surgery, and full recovery can require wearing a cast and not putting weight on the affected leg. Resting the affected leg is recommended regardless of the severity of the injury, and you should not fully resume your usual activities without the okay of your doctor. Putting too much strain on the Achilles tendon before it can fully heal may result in chronic pain and an increased likelihood of further injury.