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Tendon Rupture

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is a tendon rupture?

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.

What are the signs and symptoms of a tendon rupture?

  • 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

How is a tendon rupture diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and what you were doing at the time of your injury. Tell your provider about any medical conditions you have and medicines you take. Your provider will examine your tendon and check how well you can move the area in different directions. You may also need any of the following:

  • X-rays may show if the tendon has completely separated from the bone.
  • An MRI takes pictures of your tendon to show the damage. You may be given liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell a healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell a healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your tendon on a monitor. An ultrasound may show a tear in the tendon.

How is a tendon rupture treated?

Treatment 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.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • 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 for 48 hours 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.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe pain in the injured area, even after you take medicine.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms do not get better with treatment.
  • You feel another pop, snap, or crack in your tendon.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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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