Your Achilles tendon is an important part of your feet as it is the one, which connects together your calf muscles and your heel bone. Once properly connected, you can expect them to help push your heel away from the ground while also allowing your toes to go up.
The Achilles tendon and the mentioned muscles are helpful when you are walking, running, and jumping. The problem is that it is also at risk of getting ruptured or tearing, especially if you stretch the tendon too far. In this case, you may suffer from Achilles tendonitis.
Fortunately, there are ways to treat it, such as an Achilles surgery. However, you might have asked yourself this question, “how long after Achilles surgery can I walk”, especially if you are always on your feet all the time. You may want to learn how long it would take for you to recover.
The good news is that this article is written for you to gather information about Achilles tendon injury, the surgical procedure designed to treat it, and the recovery period.
An Overview of Achilles Tendon Injury
Your Achilles tendon is one of those tendons that have a really major function. With that, you can expect the tendon to be made in a way that it can withstand significant amounts of stress associated with jumping, running, and other daily activities.
Despite that, though, your Achilles is still prone to experiencing tendonitis, which is characterized by an inflamed tendon. There is also a great possibility for it to rupture, especially due to degeneration and overuse.
When the tendon rupture, it will most likely tear partially or completely. One major reason for this is degeneration, which usually happens when your tendon starts to lose its organized structure, causing it to form microscopic tears eventually. It might also happen because of an acute injury.
Most injuries affecting the Achilles tendon often happen when you push off your feet, like when you are accelerating or jumping. It is because it produces a sudden stress or force affecting your tendon. You can often see this in injuries related to sports, like tennis, basketball, volleyball, running, football, baseball, and dancing.
Also, you have to take note of the several reasons that might weaken or injure your Achilles tendon. These include a specific disease, certain medications, your age, arch issues, overuse, and high heels.
Another reason is when you suddenly increase your physical activities or when you fail to give the tendons in your leg the stretching they need. For severe cases of Achilles tendon injuries, the best way to treat it is through a surgical procedure.
You just have to discuss this with your doctor so you will find out what surgery works for your case the best.
Achilles Tendonitis Surgery
If you are planning to undergo a surgical procedure to treat your Achilles tendonitis, then note that you basically have two options. Here they are:
Open Achilles Tendon Tear Surgery – Such form of surgery requires one huge cut on the back part of your leg. It also involves debridement or the process of removing the damaged tissues. The surgeon will then use a tendon transfer derived from your big toe.
He/she may also sew a cadaver tendon into the remaining parts of your Achilles tendon. Doing such can help in repairing and strengthening the tendon.
Percutaneous Achilles Repair System – Shortly referred to as PARS, this is actually a new surgical technique, which involves repairing your torn and damaged tendon by making a smaller cut or incision. It does not have to remove the damaged tendon.
What your surgeon will do is to use the damaged tension as a means of repairing it. The procedure involves creating a horizontal cut, around 2 centimeters, found at around four to six centimeters over your heel. The incision or cut is necessary as a means of inserting a PARS device towards your knee.
It should be noted that the device comes with four prongs. Two of these prongs will go within your leg as a means of making the tendon stay in place. The other two, on the other hand, will go outside of your leg. The four prongs also come with eight tiny holes, allowing your surgeon to install suture reaching your tendon.
It is possible since your Achilles tendon does not tend to tear or snap evenly. It actually shreds, making it necessary to strengthen the repair by suturing the entire tendon. After securing the topmost part of the tendon, it is time for your surgeon to pull the threads tautly.
He/she will also secure together both ends of your tendon. By holding it in such position, your Achilles tendon will have a higher chance of mending and healing. However, take note that this surgical procedure is not suitable for everyone.
One requirement is to make sure that the injury is less than ten days old. It is also important to look for a doctor or surgeon who specializes in this procedure.
The Recovery Period: When can you Start Walking and Moving?
One of the most common concerns of those who would like to undergo an Achilles surgery is the length of time it will take them to recover. Especially if they live a busy lifestyle, they do not want to spend too much time recovering. If you are one of them, then this section of the article can definitely answer your question.
After the surgery, expect to experienced tiredness for a few days. In fact, your ankle and lower leg will most likely swell. The area where the cut or incision is may also feel numb. You may also notice bruises along your shin and ankle. If there is swelling, then putting ice on the swollen area can help reduce it.
Expect it to get better within a few days, too. On the first two weeks after the procedure, you will also most likely need to use a plaster cut together with crutches so you can avoid bearing your own weight. Expect your tendon to get stronger gradually while recovering. After two weeks, your doctor will recommend wearing properly fitted, supportive shoes.
You can start bearing your weight with or without crutches if you can to build up your strength. Do it slowly, though. There is a chance for you to be able to put weight on the leg affected by the injury after several weeks. However, take note that it often takes a few months for you to be able to use your ankle and leg completely.
In this case, it is important to build up your strength first through rehabilitation exercises. The length of time it takes for you to walk normally again or return to your previous exercises and sports is actually dependent on how good you are in following the rehabilitation program as well as the healing process of your tendon.
Your doctor can give you a rough idea of the actual time it takes for you to go back to your normal routines and activities. You will most likely return to walking normally in a month or so and return to your regular exercises and sports within four to six months.
Some Recovery Tips
If you want to recover more speedily, then you can actually take advantage of the following self-care tips after the surgery:
Elevate your feet – You have to do this within the first few weeks after the surgical procedure. Note that your feet will be at risk of swelling after the surgery. Elevating them just above your heart level can help reduce the swelling.
Only move when necessary – This tip is also crucial during the first weeks. You have to move only when it is necessary (ex. when you need to use the toilet or wash up). Avoid putting up too much weight on the leg that was operated on.
Follow your rehab exercises – Note that the exercises that form part of your rehabilitation program are vital aspects of your treatment. The first few exercises that the program will require you to do can help bring back your flexibility.
Such can also prevent the development of scar tissues around your tendon, so it is important to really stick to them.
Get proper rest – After the surgery, you will also feel excessive tiredness most of the time. Do not fight the urge to rest when you are too tired. You have to get enough sleep to recover fast. When sleeping, make it a point to raise your sore leg. Ask your doctor about the right position for your foot and leg when sleeping.
Follow-up care – Note that this is also a vital part of your safety and overall treatment. Make sure to be present in all your appointments with your doctor. Also, make it a point to call him if you experience problems. It is also important to be aware of the test results and have a list of all the medicines you are taking.
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Patients who underwent Achilles surgery tend to respond differently to the procedure. While there are those who cope more quickly, others take more time to recover. The best way to speed up the recovery process is for you to adhere strictly to your rehab exercises and program.