23 Apr The Causes and Management of Tendinitis Affecting the Foot
Tendinitis is the medical name given to irritation or inflammation of a tendon which is a thick and fibrous group of cords that attach muscles to bone. The most common tendon around the foot that can be affected by tendinitis includes the one that attaches the heel to the calve muscle of the lower leg known as the Achilles tendon or Achilles heel.
Causes and Risk Factors
Inflammation that affects the tendons in the feet is usually caused by intense strain on the tissues due to repetitive physical activities such as walking, running, jumping, or pushing on the toes. The tendons also weaken with advancing age which makes the structures more susceptible to injury, especially in those individuals who suddenly increase the intensity of the mentioned physical activities or those who take part in sports only on the weekends.
Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of tendinitis include:
- Being male.
- Being middle-aged, usually from 40 years onwards.
- Physical issues such as having flat foot arches or being overweight or obese, as well as having tight calf muscles.
- Using worn out running shoes as this increases stress to the tendons.
- Training or exercising in colder weather.
- Performing physical activities on uneven terrain.
- Having chronic conditions such as high blood pressure.
- Using medications such as the antibiotic group of fluoroquinolones.
Symptoms and Signs
In general, the symptoms and signs of tendinitis are as follows:
- Pain is experienced where inflammation occurs in the affected tissue. For example, tendinitis of the Achilles tendon is typically associated with a mild ache occurring above the heel or in the back of the lower leg, especially after performing prolonged activities such as sprinting, running, or climbing stairs.
- Stiffness or tenderness, especially in the morning, which improves with a mild activity of the affected limb.
- Severe pain together with a popping sound may indicate a tear or rupture of an affected tendon after persistent inflammation has caused enough damage to the tissue.
Inflamed tendons in the foot are usually mild conditions that respond well to conservative measures such as the following:
- Using over-the-counter and prescription oral medications such as acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or diclofenac, opioids such as codeine, or steroids to help reduce inflammation and thus the pain.
- Applying an ice pack or cold compress to the affected area and raising the involved limb as this helps to reduce inflammation of the affected tendon.
- Referral to a physical therapist to perform stretching and strengthening exercises to promote healing and improving the strength of the affected tendon as well as the surrounding muscles in order to offer support to the inflamed tissue.
- In the event of tendonitis of the Achilles tendon, the use of orthotic devices such as wedges or shoe inserts can be prescribed to reduce the strain exerted on the inflamed tissue.
If these mentioned therapies are ineffective, or the patient develops a complication such as a rupture of the tendon, then surgical intervention may be considered to repair the damaged tissue.