Tendinitis: Inflammation of a tendon.
Tendinitis occurs when tendons—the fibrous connective tissue structures that connect muscles to bones—become irritated and inflamed. Inflammation is the localized response by the body to injury or damage caused by chemical, physical, or biological agents. Most tendinitis treated by foot care professionals is caused by overuse, usually from repetitive work tasks or recreational sports. Foot and lower extremity tendinitis can significantly affect a person’s ability to perform his or her activities of daily living.
The inflammation associated with tendinitis is caused by small microtears within the affected tendon. The three main types of tendinitis that can occur in the foot and ankle include posterior tibial tendinitis, Achilles tendinitis, and peroneal tendinitis. Here is a little additional information about each of these tendinitis types:
Posterior Tibial Tendinitis: The posterior tibial tendon begins in the calf and runs down the lower leg to the inside of the foot arch. This type of lower extremity tendinitis commonly occurs in people who have flat feet. The stress associated with arch collapse may cause microtears in the posterior tibial tendon, resulting in pain and inflammation.
Achilles Tendinitis: Achilles tendinitis is characterized by pain and other symptoms at the point where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus, or heel bone. Pain in the back of the heel is often accompanied by a palpable lump in the Achilles tendon. This problem is common among athletes, especially runners. Rapid increases in training volume, certain training errors, and carrying a heavy pack for prolonged periods may all contribute to Achilles tendinitis.
Peroneal Tendinitis: The peroneal tendons are located on the lateral, or outside, aspect of the ankle and help stabilize the foot and ankle during gait. Excessive stress on the peroneal tendons from foot injury-induced gait changes may cause microtears in these structures, leading to pain and swelling on the outside aspect of the foot and ankle.
Signs & Symptoms
Some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with foot and ankle tendinitis include:
- Fever (in some cases)
- Decreased tendon function
Numerous factors may contribute to or cause foot and ankle tendinitis, including:
- Excessive hill walking or running
- Tight tendons, or tendon contracture
- Foot abnormalities, such as flat feet
- Increasing running mileage too quickly
- Strain, degeneration, or rupture of the involved tendon
Foot and lower extremity tendinitis usually responds to noninvasive, conservative care methods. Beneficial treatment techniques for this health problem include:
- Appropriate lower extremity stretches
- Icing the affected area or using contrast (i.e., hot/cold) therapy
- Rest (especially avoiding activities that exacerbate the condition)
- Shoe therapy (i.e. making appropriate footwear changes or modifications)
Consider asking a naturally-minded foot care professional about the most helpful shoes for treating foot and ankle tendinitis.