Rehabilitation After Achilles Tendon Surgery
Following Achilles tendon surgery, immobilization of the affected foot is essential. Immobilization can last up to 12 weeks. During this time, patients receive either a walking boot or cast designed to provide support and prevent movement.
How quickly a patient progresses with his or her rehabilitation varies. At Southeast Orthopedic Specialists, our patients receive personalized treatment plans. These plans are created by his or her orthopedic specialist. If you have sustained an injury to your Achilles tendon, contact our office today. We are dedicated to helping you regain your range of motion and strength so you can continue participating in the activities you enjoy.
Rehabilitation Program Guidelines
Weeks 1 through 8
Throughout this initial recovery period, patients need to avoid exercising their foot. This ‘rest’ period aids the Achilles tendon as it heals. Many patients find that doing something positive during their eight-week, limited-mobility period assists them in coping with this less-active lifestyle. For example, purchase a few photo albums and go through that old box of photos in the attic.
What to Expect After the Initial 8 Weeks
Flexibility and Range of Motion
- In order to relieve the pressure being placed on the Achilles tendon, heel raises of 1 to 2 cm will be placed in the patient’s shoes.
- Active stretching of the Achilles tendon may begin. This involves pulling the toes upwards. Initially, this stretching must be gentle, gradually building up over time. If these stretches are painless, passive stretches can begin. A passive stretch involves the assistance of an individual or a physical therapy tool during the stretching process.
- The orthopedic specialist may order ultrasound therapy.
- Once the patient’s full range of motion is re-established, gradual strengthening exercises can begin.
- After an individual experiences a ligament or tendon rupture, his or her sense of positioning and balance may decrease: If these skills are not regained, future injuries are possible. Therefore, at this point, balancing exercises will be included in the patient’s physical therapy routine.
- Sports massage may be used to improve blood flow and to help the muscles relax.
Strengthening Exercises for the Calf Muscles and Achilles Tendon
- Strengthening the Achilles tendon as opposed to re-injuring it during these exercises requires the assistance of a knowledgeable orthopedic specialist and physical therapist.
- When the exercise program is initiated, some pain should be expected. However, if the pain is excruciating, exercises should be discontinued.
- Strengthening exercises should be performed following a gentle warm-up and stretching session. Warming up the muscles can be accomplished by raising the heels up and down while in a seated position.
- As each day passes, the pain level should continue to decrease.
- Even as the pain subsides, the level of exercise should not be increased without direction from the orthopedic specialist.
- Directly following exercise, cold therapy can be implemented to control inflammation.
- Exercises to maintain flexibility must also be continued.
Returning to Fitness
After a week without any pain, patients can gradually begin to return to their pre-surgical training routine. However, if pain starts, training must stop. Prior to a training session, patients need to warm up their muscles. This can be done by stretching and then walking. At Southeast Orthopedic Specialists, the majority of our patients are ready to return to their sport within 9 months of their Achilles tendon surgery.