Experiencing a tear or rupture in one of your joints can be painful and debilitating. Just to be clear “rupture” is pretty much another way of saying “complete tear” of a ligament, tendon or muscle. On the other hand, simply saying “tear” can recognize a wider range of the injury. It may only be a partial tear. It’s important to understand the signs that you might have an injury so that you know how to treat it.

Achilles Tendon

This is a long tendon that spans from the calf muscles to the heel bone and it is easy to injure, especially for avid athletes. Athletes will want to stretch out their Achilles before any strenuous activity. Other causes of Achilles injuries for non-athletes can be having fallen arches or wearing high heels

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Major Achilles ruptures and tears usually happen in the blink of an eye. You may hear a snapping sound (some describe it as a “pop”). You may feel severe pain immediately or the pain could be mild at first. If you cannot stand up on your tippy-toes, that’s another common symptom of a significant Achilles tendon injury. With a partial tear, you may experience chronic tightness and pain in your back lower leg and heel. It could also be bursitis, so an MRI is recommended for proper diagnosis.

Knee Ligaments

Knees have a complicated tendon/ligament structure and they take a lot of stress on a daily basis, especially for athletes. An ACL or MCL rupture or tear can happen if you suddenly twist your knee, over-extend it, land on it awkwardly, come to a sudden stop or get hit hard around the knee area. Again, sometimes it’s a matter of not stretching the knee enough before sports activities.

A full knee ligament rupture will likely be extremely painful as soon as it happens. It will need to be treated, usually through surgery. Each tendon or ligament will require different medical treatments and physical therapy.

With a partial tear, some of the symptoms you can look for will be chronic pain, swelling, looseness of the joint and an inability to put your full weight on the injured leg.

Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is a term for the group of four muscles and ligaments in the shoulder that can commonly be injured. If you play sports with a lot of throwing or swinging involved (baseball/softball, football quarterback, tennis, golf), you are prone to shoulder and elbow stress.

With a shoulder or elbow rupture or tear, surgery is usually a last-case option. When required it is done with arthroscopy to remove dead tissue without cutting open the joint. Otherwise, physical therapy and other medical treatments will usually be recommended at first to enable the tendons, ligaments, and muscles to heal on their own.

Other Joints

The neck, wrists, ankles, hips, and hamstrings are some of the other tendon/ligament structures that can experience ruptures and tears. Again, it’s always important to stretch before major athletic activity. If you feel chronic pain/tightness no matter how much you stretch or experience a noticeable dislocation or snap during physical activity, you will need to consult a doctor and/or physical therapist for treatment and recovery options.


The body is full of different muscle groups (biceps, triceps, quadriceps, calves, abs, etc.). Any muscle is prone to a minor or major tear if you put too much strain on it. Minor tears will generally heal on their own with enough rest and therapy. Major tears or full ruptures may require surgery and continued physical therapy. Of course, stretching is another way to help prevent significant muscle injuries.

To learn more about ligament, tendon and muscle strains, tears and ruptures—as well as targeted physical therapy programs to treat them—contact CORE Physical Therapy today.