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Understanding Your Child's Achilles Tendon Surgery Recovery

Kids on the autism spectrum often struggle with an Achilles tendon that doesn't grow properly. This is usually caused by walking on the toes, because walking that way prevents the child's heel from touching the floor. A shortened Achilles tendon can actually hinder your child's overall mobility in the future. If your child has to undergo surgery to stretch the tendon, you'll have to follow it up with physical therapy. Here's a look at what you can expect from that therapy process.

Immediately After Surgery

When your child's surgery is finished, the doctor will have a cast fitted for the affected leg. The cast will cover the entire foot and typically reach the base of the knee. The goal of this cast is to position the leg and foot properly and also add some key support to the muscles of the calf and the Achilles tendon area.

With the cast in place, your child will start with some basic therapy to teach him or her how to move while the cast is on. This usually starts with things like leg raises and some gentle weight-bearing exercises. It's also going to require a series of exercises and stretches to increase mobility. You'll have to continue them at home to help your child's early healing.

After Cast Removal

When the cast comes off, your child's therapy needs will increase. The physical therapist will encourage some foot-flexing activities, because those will stretch the muscles around the ankle. In some cases, your child may also have some electrical stimulation to encourage the healing response.

Over time, your child will be asked to do more weight-bearing exercises until he or she can safely and comfortably put full weight on the affected foot. Then, the physical therapy shifts to proper walking motions and the heel-to-toe motion of a correct step. The goal of this stage is not only to teach your child the correct way to walk, but also to allow the physical therapist to evaluate the results of the surgery and subsequent healing.

The therapist will watch how your child's foot is moving, including how the hip and leg are aligned to the foot. In response to this information, the therapy program and stretches that your child must do will be altered. The ultimate goal is to protect the tendon while building muscle tone and ensuring proper movement.

Regaining proper mobility will take time and effort after your child's surgery. With a consistent, reliable physical therapy program, he or she will have a better chance of recovery more quickly. Talk with your child's physician and physical therapist today to see what you can do to facilitate quick healing.