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Tendon Rupture, Ambulatory Care

A tendon rupture

is a partial or complete tear of your tendon. Tendons are tough bands of tissue that attach your muscles to your bones. A tear may be caused by an injury or increased pressure on the tendon that occurs during sports or a fall. Your risk may be higher if you have a weak tendon. Weak tendons may be caused by tendonitis, use of steroids, older age, and chronic conditions such as arthritis.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Tearing or popping sound at the time of the injury
  • Pain or tenderness in the area of the ruptured tendon
  • Weakness or stiffness in the injured area
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Trouble walking or moving the area where the tendon rupture occurred

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain in the injured area, even after you take medicine
  • Warmth, tenderness, and pain in your arm or leg
  • Lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and chest pain
  • Coughing up blood

Treatment for a tendon rupture

depends on which tendon you ruptured and how severe the rupture is. You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • A steroid injection decreases pain, inflammation, and helps heal a partial tear.
  • Support devices , such as a brace, cast, or splint, limit movement and protect your tendon. If the tendon rupture is in your leg, you may need to use crutches. This will decrease pain as you move around.
  • Physical therapy may be recommended after swelling and pain have decreased. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength.
  • Surgery may be needed to reattach your tendon to the bone if you have a complete tear.

Manage a tendon rupture:

  • Rest the injured tendon until pain and swelling have decreased. Ask your healthcare provider what activities you can do while your tendon heals.
  • Apply ice on your tendon for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Compress the injury with an elastic bandage, air cast, medical boot, or splint to reduce swelling. Ask your healthcare provider which compression device to use, and how tight it should be.
  • Elevate the injured area above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. If possible, prop the injured area on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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