Foot or Ankle Tendonitis
Foot or ankle tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon in the foot or ankle, usually due to overuse from repetitive movements or stretching. Your ankle is one of the most common places to develop tendonitis, sometimes referred to as tendinitis.
Tendons are the strong, cord-like bands of connective tissue that link muscles to bone. The many different tendons around the foot work hard when we’re on our feet and active. If a tendon is made to work too hard, for too long or in the wrong way, damage and tiny tears may develop in the tendon. This is accompanied by inflammation which is the tell-tale sign of the condition.
What causes tendonitis?
The most common cause of foot or ankle tendonitis is overuse such as sports that require repetitive movement or running. Other causes of foot and ankle tendonitis include injuries to the tendons in the foot or ankle, rheumatic disease such as gout or arthritis and foot or ankle altered mechanics associated with flat feet or high arch feet.
Men are more likely to develop tendonitis in the foot or ankle and people over 40 are more at risk. Obesity can also cause stress on the tendons in the foot and ankle. Worn out shoes that don’t support the feet can also lead to tendonitis.
Symptoms of foot tendonitis typically include pain, swelling and stiffness, particularly noticeable in the morning. The affected tendon may be swollen and warm and painful to touch or move. You may have trouble standing on tiptoe or finding shoes that fit comfortably.
Tendonitis occurs in a number of areas of the foot with pain presenting in different areas:
- Achilles tendonitis causes heel and calf pain, typically felt when walking or running, extending all the way up to the middle of the calf.
- Peroneal tendonitis causes pain and inflammation along the outer edge of the heel, and is more common in high arch feet.
- Extensor tendonitis causes pain on the top of the foot.
- Anterior tibial tendonitis causes pain on the front of your foot, typically felt when walking down stairs or on sloped surfaces.
- Posterior tibial tendonitis causes pain and inflammation on the inner portion of the ankle (under the protruding bone), and is more common in flat feet often times making a flat foot flatter and more painful.
How is tendonitis diagnosed and treated?
Your doctor will look for signs of tenderness in the tendon in your foot or ankle, and signs of weakness when it’s moved. Our physicians might also recommend digital X-rays, MRIs, or ultrasounds to look for calcium deposits around the tendon, swelling of the tendon and surrounding tendon sheath, or possible tears within the tendon.
It usually takes two to three months to recover from foot or ankle tendonitis, but it can take much longer without the proper treatment so early diagnosis and treatment is essential. If tendonitis is not treated early or resolved early, severe foot deformities may develop including worsening of flat feet and arthritis.
Treatments for foot or ankle tendonitis range from rest, injections to surgery depending on the severity of the injury. Once your diagnosis is confirmed, your course of treatment includes multiple approaches, including:
- Resting the affected area
- Icing the tendon to reduce inflammation
- Anti-inflammatory pain relievers
- Exercises to strengthen muscles and reduce stress on tendons
- Supportive shoes or custom orthotics
- Splint or brace
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
Recovery from tendonitis tends to be a slow process. If the patient does not follow the physician’s orders to rest the impacted area the recovery time can be extended.
In some severe cases, doctors at Augusta Foot & Ankle might recommend surgical treatments to treat Achilles tendonitis and posterior tibial tendonitis. Our practice also offers amniotic membrane stem cell injections and MLS laser for tendonitis that hasn’t responded to traditional and other conservative treatments.