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Can a Tendon Tear Heal on Its Own?

Can a Tendon Tear Heal on Its Own?

With every step you take, tendons in your feet and ankles enable the movements and provide support and stability along the way. Their role in your mobility can become abundantly clear when you tear one of these tough connective tissues, leaving you hobbled and in discomfort.

If you’re wondering about what to expect after a tendon tear and whether the tissue will heal on its own, the answer is complex. In this month’s blog post, our team of podiatry experts here at Neuhaus Foot and Ankle, with 10 locations across Tennessee, takes a closer look at tendon tears.

The main tendons in your feet and ankles

There are four main tendons or tendon groups in your feet and ankles:

  1. Achilles tendon: attaches your calf muscles to your heel
  2. Peroneal tendons: two tendons on the outside of your ankles that provide arch support
  3. Posterior tibial tendon: attaches your calf muscles to the inside of your foot
  4. Extensor tendon: attaches the bones in your lower leg to your toes

Of these, typically only the first three can incur tears as your extensor tendon runs along the top of your foot and is difficult to tear. That said, you can lacerate this tendon, given its vulnerable location.

Dealing with tendon tears in your feet and ankles

Whether you incur a tendon tear in your Achilles tendon, peroneal tendon, or posterior tibial tendon, the extent of the tear will dictate your treatment options.

In many cases, tendon tears are sports injuries that occur as a result of overusing or overstressing the tissue, which can weaken it and leave it prone to tearing. That said, tendon tears can also occur due to acute trauma. For example, if you twist your ankle badly, you can not only end up with sprained ligaments, but also torn tendons.

With partial tears, we typically recommend rest, as well as physical therapy. For a partial tear in your Achilles tendon, we might also recommend a boot, which immobilizes your foot to take the pressure off the tissue while it heals.

When dealing with a partial tear, patience is essential. For example, it can take months, and even up to a year, for a large tendon, like your Achilles, to heal.

If your tendon is completely torn or ruptured, we may suggest surgery to reattach the tissues, especially if you lead an active lifestyle and you’re anxious to get back on your feet. Surgery might also play a role if conservative measures, like rest and physical therapy, aren’t resolving the issue and the pain or instability persists.

Deciding factors

Deciding whether we should allow your tendon to heal on its own or intervene surgically should really be determined on a case-by-case basis. The first step is to come to see us so that we can observe the extent of the tear and the likelihood (and potential timeline) of the tissue repairing itself. 

Your age, goals, and activity levels are also important factors. If you’re in your mid-30s, for example, and quite active, surgery for your tendon tear might be the best action. If, on the other hand, you’re older and lead a more sedentary lifestyle, then giving the tissue time to heal on its own could be the best choice.

To better understand the treatment options that are best for your unique circumstances, contact one of our offices in Hermitage, Brentwood, Nashville, Mount Juliet, Waverly, Smyrna, Gallatin, Columbia, Pulaski, or Lebanon, Tennessee, to set up an appointment.

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