The foot is one of the most complex parts of the human body with 26 bones, 33 joints, 50 muscles and 100 tendons and ligaments in each foot. Muscles are connected to the bones by the tendons; it is this complex mechanism that allows the foot to move. Tendons are composed of extremely strong but elastic connective tissue. The tendons are categorized as peroneal, tibialis, and Achilles tendons. The Achilles tendon that runs from the heel into the calf is the largest tendon in the body and is the tendon that is most prone to injury.
Causes of Strained Tendon in Foot
- Due to the amount of stress they are subjected to, the tendons of the foot are prone to strain and injury.
- Tendons can also be strained or torn by direct trauma or simply by jumping from a height causing the ankle to bend awkwardly.
- Strenuous activity and repetitive motion, particularly in a body that is not accustomed to the activity, can also lead to injuries to tendons in the foot.
- People with exceptionally high arches may also be more prone to foot tendon strains and tears.
- Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendons that can cause weakening and eventual strain and occasional tears or rupture of the tendon.
- Occasionally, especially in older people, there may be no known cause for a strained tendon. The aging process can cause weakening of the tendons which can result in spontaneous strains or tears.
Symptoms and Complications of Strained Tendon in Foot
How can you tell if you may have a strained, torn or ruptured tendon in your foot?
The most common symptom of tendon problems is pain that may result in a decreased ability to walk or move the foot. Especially with an Achilles tendon strain, you may not be able to bear weight on the affected foot. The pain may be accompanied by bruising or swelling particularly if the tendon injury was caused by trauma. Suspect a tendon strain or rupture if you hear a snapping sound at the same time you felt the pain begin. Particularly with the Achilles tendon, you may notice an indentation above or below the tendon.
When you have a strained tendon in foot, you may develop other complications. Tendonitis, in addition to being a cause of a strained tendon, can also be a complication. With tendonitis, expect swelling of the tendon, hot and reddened skin covering the tendon, and tenderness when you touch the area. Tenosynovitis is another complication of tendon strain. In this condition, the covering of the tendon, the synovium, becomes inflamed. Fortunately, both of these complications are usually not severe and can be treated with rest and use of anti-inflammatory medications.
How to Deal With Strained Tendon in Foot
Medical Treatment for strain Tendon in Foot
Medical treatment of tendon injuries begins with diagnosis of the problem. A physician should do a thorough exam of the affected foot and may do x-rays, ultrasounds, and MRIs to determine the extent of the injury. Treatment will be based on the findings but will almost always include immobilization of your foot using a splint or cast. The provider will typically prescribe non-weight-bearing on that foot - which means you may be on crutches for some time. You will usually be sent to physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and tendons in your leg and foot.
If the tendon is completely torn or ruptured, your provider may send you to a surgeon for repair of the tendon. If surgery is required, your foot and ankle will be immobilized for several weeks as the tendon heals. Healing time will vary depending on the severity of the injury, your age, and your overall health. Again, during this time the surgeon will probably recommend crutches so that you are not putting any weight on the affected foot.
Home Remedies for Strained Tendon in Foot
For tendon strains and minor injuries, there are several home remedies you can use.
- Ice. At the initial sign of injury, apply an ice pack to the point of pain or swelling. Wrap the ice pack in a towel to avoid "freezing" your skin. Keep the ice pack in place for 20 minutes and then remove it for 20 minutes. Remember: 20 minutes on/20 minutes off.
- Elastic bandage. Until you are seen by your healthcare provider, you can loosely wrap your ankle with an elastic bandage to reduce swelling and provide some support. Be careful that the bandage is not applied to tightly! It is possible to cause worse injury by cutting off blood supply to your foot and toes.
- Elevation. As much as possible, keep your foot elevated above the level of your heart. This will keep blood from accumulating in your foot and will decrease swelling and pain. At night, be sure to prop your affected up on one or two pillows.
- Rest. Your provider will prescribe a certain number of days of rest to prevent further injury from your strained tendon. This rest may include a period of non-weight-bearing during which you may be required to use crutches.
- Drugs. There are over-the-counter medications that can be very useful in reducing inflammation and swelling for strained tendons. The Nonsteroidal anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen work particularly well.
- No exercise. If you are being treated by your healthcare provider or a physical therapist, follow their instructions for introducing exercise back into your schedule following a tendon injury. For less severe strains that you are treating on your own, let pain and swelling be your guide. If you attempt to do too much too soon, you risk further injury to the tendon.
- Ankle taping. Before taping your ankle for participation in athletics, be sure to see your healthcare provider or physical therapist to determine if this treatment is appropriate for you.
An excellent video on ankle taping can be viewed:
Finally, there are certain things you can do to prevent tendon strains and injury.
- First, avoid those things that tend to cause tendon strain including jumping from heights and strenuous activity.
- Stretch before doing any exercise or activity that might cause injury to your tendons.
- Be sure to wear shoes that are appropriate for the activity and be sure they fit well. Particularly if you are participating in an athletic event, your shoes should support your arch and heel.
Any pain in your foot that lasts longer than a few minutes, or that does not go away when you stop the activity causing the pain, should be treated by your healthcare provider.