Tendons, soft yet strong connective tissues that attach muscles to bones, have an extremely important role to play in helping you stand, move, and accomplish your daily tasks. They must be strong enough to withstand significant tension, yet “elastic” enough to store and release forces—acting like springs to make walking and running more efficient.Graphic of an Achilles tendon

Unfortunately, when tendons are overstretched or overloaded, they may become irritated, inflamed, or otherwise damaged. This is called tendinitis, and in severe cases it can be quite painful and restrictive. Fortunately, our team offers many advanced treatment options to help you get back on your way quickly.

Tendinitis of the Feet and Ankles

Tendinitis in the Achilles tendon is, by far, the most common and well-known injury of this type. Although the Achilles tendon is the body’s thickest and strongest, it also has the most difficult job to do. It bears your full weight with every step, and propels you whenever you walk, run, or jump.

However, the Achilles is far from the only tendon in the lower limbs that can be inflamed or damaged. Other examples include:

  • Extensor tendinitis. Pain is felt on the top of the foot.
  • Posterior tibial tendinitis. Pain is on the inner side of the foot and in the ankle. This condition is also associated with a flattening of the arch.
  • Peroneal tendinitis. Pain near the outer and back side of the foot and ankle.
  • Anterior tibial tendinitis. Pain near the front of the foot, especially when descending stairs or walking on a steep grade.

Symptoms of Tendinitis

The most common symptoms of tendinitis include:

  • Pain. This may manifest itself as a sharp stabbing or burning sensation. Generally, it begins in a small area, but over time worsens in severity and spreads to a larger region of the foot or ankle.
  • Swelling. The tendon may swell, and you may even begin to feel a soft, tender lump at the site of the injury. This may not be noticeable for at least a few weeks after pain begins.
  • Stiffness. The inflamed tendon increases stiffness as it loses flexibility and your pain-free range of motion shrinks.

What Causes Tendinitis?

Most but not all cases of tendinitis are the product of overuse—many small, minor stresses that add up over time. The remainder result from a more sudden, severe acute trauma.

If you run or play intense sports regularly, or spend a lot of time on your feet at work or during hobbies, you may be more susceptible to developing foot or ankle tendinitis. Middle-aged “weekend warriors” who rapidly increase their exercise intensity in a short period are especially vulnerable.

Other risk factors may include:

  • Age. Tendons naturally weaken and lose flexibility as you get older.
  • Repetitive motions or activities, such as constantly crouching for gardening or plumbing work.
  • Wearing inappropriate equipment or shoes for your exercise or activity.
  • Structural inefficiencies with your feet or abnormalities in your walking gait. For example, flat feet can increase the force load on the Achilles tendon.
  • Stresses from unrelated conditions, such as arthritis, thyroid disorders, infections, reactions to medications, etc.
  • Obesity

Tendinitis Treatment Options

The sooner you seek treatment for tendinitis pain, the better. Tendons are highly complex, and failure to treat tendinitis properly can cause pain and swelling to linger for weeks or even months. Fortunately, our team provides a variety of care options, from traditional self-care to advanced technology:

  • Rest. Avoid painful activities like running or sports while your tendon heals.
  • Ice. This helps keep pain and swelling to a minimum, especially within the first few days after symptoms emerge.
  • Physical therapy. Stretching and exercise is important to reduce pain, strengthen supporting muscles, improve range of motion, and promote healing.
  • Footwear modifications. Depending on the nature and causes of your injury, this might simply be switching to a newer pair of shoes. However, others may require arch supports or custom orthotics.
  • Activity modifications. Altering your activity schedule in certain ways can help you reduce stress on your tendons. Examples of this include cross training in more low-impact exercises, avoiding hard or steep terrain, and building up slowly to new activities.
  • Regenerative medicine. Our office provides regenerative treatments such as extracorporeal pulse activation treatment (EPAT), also known as shockwave therapy. This non-invasive technologies has all shown significant success at accelerating tissue repair mechanisms so that you can relieve pain and recovery from injury much faster.
At Northwest Extremity Specialists, we pride ourselves on offering the widest range of care options, so that we can personalize an effective treatment plan that’s just right for you. To schedule an appointment with our team, please complete our online contact form or directly contact the office nearest you.