Pain 1 Year After Achilles Tendon Surgery
The Achilles tendon connects the muscles in the back of your calf to your heel. A tear in this tendon can lead to severe pain, immediate bruising, limited range of motion, and inability to bear weight. Without prompt treatment, tendon tears restrict movement and cause nerve pain.
Although there are surgical and non-surgical treatments for a torn Achilles tendon, surgery reduces the risk of reinjury and has a shorter downtime. Nevertheless, some people still report feeling pain one year after the surgery. This is often due to surgical complications.
This article explores how we can help you heal better after Achilles tendon surgery at Barkman and Smith Physical Therapy.
Achilles Tendon Overview
The Achilles is the largest tendon in the body. This tendon is a strong fibrous cord connecting the calf muscles to the heel. The Achilles tendon is primarily used when walking, running, and jumping. Unfortunately, this tendon can get damaged by a tear or degeneration. Consequently, surgery is necessary.
Achilles tendon tear occurs when a sudden strong force is applied to the tendon, especially during physical activity. In addition, excessively turning the foot outwards results in a tendon tear. Achilles tendon tear is present with pain, swelling near the heel, and an inability to bend the foot downward.
Achilles tendon degeneration, on the other hand, occurs due to the overuse of the tendon. In addition, repeated stress on the tendon, especially when you increase activity levels, increases the risk of degeneration. Another risk factor is short calf muscles. Achilles tendon degeneration, also known as tendinitis or tendinopathy, is present with pain and stiffness.
Achilles tendon surgery is necessary for repairing a completely torn Achilles tendon. Nevertheless, there are non-surgical treatments like resting the tendon using crutches, wearing a cast, or using pain relief medications. The treatment choice depends on the severity of your injury, age, and activity level.
What Happens During Achilles Tendon Surgery?
The Achilles tendon surgery is an orthopedic surgery that requires anesthesia that numbs you during the procedure. During the surgery, your surgeon will make an incision through your calf's skin and muscles. And through this incision, your surgeon will repair the tear or remove the damaged tendon.
Sometimes, your surgeon may replace all or part of your Achilles tendon with another tendon from your foot. Afterward, your surgeon will close the layers of the skin and muscle around your calf with sutures.
What to Expect After Achilles Tendon Surgery?
Recovery after Achilles tendon surgery in Bedford and Fort Worth, TX doesn't happen in one day; it occurs in stages. The timeline to full recovery after your surgery includes the following;
Immediately after your surgery, your surgeon will place a cast on your leg. The cast will run from your knee to your toes, keeping your foot pointed. Over the next few weeks, you may use crutches, a walker, or a knee scooter to prevent putting weight on the treated leg. You may also feel pain for the first few days post-surgery. Therefore, it is best to keep the affected leg elevated as much as possible.
You may need to wear your cast for about six weeks post-surgery. After removing your cast, your doctor will give you a walking boot. The boot will have a heel lift that props your foot and ankle in the proper position. It is essential to keep weight off your affected foot still. You may still need to use crutches during this period.
You may also start rehabilitative exercises one month after your surgery. The exercises will promote ankle mobility and strengthen your calf muscles. You will also learn how to walk properly with the boot.
12 Weeks Post-Surgery
Your physical therapist may remove your walking boot at this time. You may have to stand on your affected leg for a few seconds at a time. Your physical therapist will also recommend low-impact exercises during this period.
You should return to full activity 4 to 6 months post-surgery. Nevertheless, it is essential to be careful and not undergo strenuous activities. Some people don't get their full strength and function back to what it was before the injury.
Why Do You Feel Pain After Achilles Tendon Surgery?
After an Achilles tendon surgery, it is normal to experience pain. The recovery length depends on the tendon tear's severity, how soon you got treatment, and your overall health. Usually, most patients take about 4 to 6 months to recover and return to all activities fully.
However, in some cases, patients report pain more than six months after the surgery. This is often due to a surgical complication. This complication is more prevalent in older people than in younger patients. In addition, without proper recovery, there are higher chances of recurring pain.
The Role of Physical Therapy After Achilles Tendon Surgery
Physical therapy in Fort Worth and Bedford, TX focuses on improving your range of motion without straining your healing tendons. Your specialized treatment program may consist of exercises and other physical therapy techniques that suit the severity of your pain. Usually, this program may take up to 5 or 6 months for you to recover fully.
Physical therapy treatments for Achilles tendon surgery include heat and ice therapy, massage therapy, and exercises. Nevertheless, exercises are the best way to heal after surgery.
Besides helping you heal properly and preventing recurring pain, physical therapy after Achilles tendon surgery offers several benefits, including;
Restoring Balance and Proprioception
Proprioception is your body's awareness of its position and movement. After Achilles tendon surgery, you will have to undergo a period of immobilization which affects your balance and proprioception. Your physical therapist will incorporate specific exercises in your treatment plan to restore your balance.
Some exercises that improve your balance include single leg stance, standing on a balance board, and standing on foam.
Improving Range of Motion
After your surgery, it may be difficult to extend your feet for a while. Physical therapy after Achilles tendon surgery involves passive and active exercises that restore flexibility and joint mobility. In passive ROM exercises, you don't have to exert any effort. With time and healing, your physical therapist will move you gradually to active ROM exercises.
ROM exercises after Achilles tendon surgery include ankle exercises in all directions, ankle alphabet exercises, and ankle pumping exercises.
Preventing Recurrence and Future Injuries
Physical therapy in Bedford, TX restores your range of motion and prevents future injuries. The treatment plan usually consists of ankle-strengthening exercises that improve muscle strength, equipping them to withstand greater force. Increased muscle strength also reduces the risk of sustaining future injuries to your ankle and Achilles tendon.
Physical therapy exercises for strengthening your ankles include calf raises, straight leg raises, soleus presses, and short arc quad sets.
Scar tissue forms around the tendon when it is healing. The scar tissue and period of immobilization can make the tendon and its surrounding muscles feel tight. However, flexibility exercises can reduce muscle tightness and help you move easily.
Your physical therapist may perform manual stretching around your ankle to ease the tightness. You may also carry out exercises like the runner's stretch, towel calf stretch, and stair stretching to improve flexibility.
Easing Return to High-Level Sports
Your physical therapist will recommend plyometrics if you want to return to high-level sports and recreational activities. Plyometrics require you to jump and land in specific ways. It is essential to do this exercise safely and land properly. The best posture is for your feet to be shoulder-width apart. You should also ensure that your knees do not buckle inwards or outwards.
Before carrying out plyometrics, your physical therapist should certify you are ready. Otherwise, there is an increased risk of injury.
Plyometric exercises include box jumping, single-leg jumping, shuttle runs, hopping in place, and single-leg hop in straight lines and diagonally.
Improving Aerobic Capacity
After your Achilles tendon surgery, you will be immobile for a few weeks. During this period, your aerobic capacity will reduce. Therefore, your physical therapist will recommend exercises to improve your aerobic capacity during recovery.
Your physical therapist will let you know the best aerobic conditioning exercises for you and how long you should do these exercises for maximum impact. Some of the best aerobic exercises with non-weight bearing and minimal impact include biking, elliptical and ARC trainer, and treadmill walking and running.
How Can You Prevent Achilles Tendon Tears?
Achilles tendon tear can occur when you fall from a height or increase the intensity of your sports participation. You can prevent a tear by carrying out slow and basic stretches before your exercise. Also, if you feel sore in your Achilles tendon, it is best to rest.
Furthermore, wearing shoes with good arch support and cushioning can help prevent tears during sports. You should also avoid running on hard surfaces.
Achilles tendon surgery can help treat a rupture or tear in your Achilles tendon. Nevertheless, you may still feel pain up to 1 year after the surgery. In addition, some patients do not regain their full function in some cases compared to before the injury. Fortunately, we can help speed up your recovery, improve your range of motion, and prevent injury recurrence at Barkman and Smith Physical Therapy.
Achilles tendon surgery recovery in Bedford and Fort Worth, TX, involves customized treatments that reduce pain and help you heal properly.