Rupture, or tearing, of the achilles tendon is a common condition which often occurs in an out of condition person who sustains the rupture while playing sports, or perhaps, from tripping. There is a vigorous contraction of the muscle and the tendon tears. The patient will often describe the sensation that someone or something has hit the back of the calf muscle. Pain is suddenly present and although it is possible to walk, it is usually painful. More importantly however, the leg is weak. This is particularly noticeable when trying to push off while walking, and there is not sufficient strength to do so.
While it is possible to treat an achilles tendon rupture without surgery it is not ideal as the maximum strength of the muscle and tendon rarely returns. The reason for this is that the ends of the tendon are ruptured in a very irregular manner and as soon as the tendon ruptures, the calf muscle continues to pull on the tendon and the end of the ruptured tendon pulls back into the leg, which we call retraction. Once the tendon retracts, it is never possible to get sufficient strength back without surgery.