Millions of people develop tendonitis every year. Swelling of the tendons — flexible tissues connecting muscles and bones — can occur after physical exercises, repetitive motion, or injury. Peroneal tendonitis is a common condition leading to pain and soreness in the joints, especially on the outside and back of the foot. Runners and athletes who are on their feet a lot are at a higher risk of developing peroneal tendonitis.
Causes of Peroneal Tendonitis
Micro-tears and inflammation in the peroneal tendons that connect the calf muscles to the foot bones cause peroneal tendonitis. These tendons stabilize the ankle and arch while standing and walking, but overuse can strain and tear them. When the tendons experience increased weight, they can rub on the bones. People who suddenly start training more, or wear improper footwear for running or jumping, may develop peroneal tendonitis.
Increased Risk Factors
Dedicated athletes who train regularly and spend hours on their feet are at higher risk of peroneal tendonitis, as are those with naturally higher foot arches. People who have problems with their lower limb muscles or joints are also liable to develop the condition, as are those who speed through the rehabilitation process after an ankle injury. The body needs time to heal, as the ankles and tendons are under regular pressure to bear weight whenever someone stands, walks, or runs. Plus, as people age, their tendons become less flexible and more prone to injury and tendonitis.
Signs of Peroneal Tendonitis
Peroneal tendonitis usually appears suddenly, but some chronic cases develop slowly over time. Regardless, the most common symptom is a throbbing pain on the back of the ankle, with the discomfort that increases during physical activity and subsides when resting. People with peroneal tendonitis often notice swelling and may feel pain when trying to turn the foot in or out. It may also be difficult to bear weight on the ankle.
Preventing Peroneal Tendonitis
Despite the risk factors, several preventative measures can lower the chance of developing peroneal tendonitis. Wearing appropriate shoes that give adequate support for the foot and ankle is vital. Stretching the muscles before and after working out can also help, and people should take a slow and steady approach to increase their training regimens instead of making sudden adjustments. Orthopedic doctors recommend athletes stay active during recovery and off-seasons to prevent flare-ups of peroneal tendonitis. Early treatment of any pain is essential, as tendons that move out of place are at high risk of tearing.
Immobilizing the Ankle
People with peroneal tendonitis should avoid strenuous activity to give their tendons time to heal. Immobilization with a boot can be helpful in severe cases; this non-surgical solution aids in the recovery of the tendons. No one with an immobilized ankle should try to play sports or bear a lot of weight on their foot, as the more rest the tendons have, the better.
Ankle braces are another option for people with peroneal tendonitis, particularly if the pain is mild. Wrapping the ankle in a brace ahead of walking, bicycling, or other activities that require repetitive ankle movement is key. Ankle braces offer external support and encourage recovery while also lowering the risk of further injury. Orthopedic specialists recommend that anyone wearing an ankle brace makes sure the brace fits properly within athletic shoes for the best results during both light exercise and intense activity.
In some cases, doctors may suggest cortisone injections to treat peroneal tendonitis. This medication can reduce pain and inflammation. The treatment is typically used for chronic cases after other methods have failed, as there is a slight chance of the tendons rupturing from the injection. Doctors are very careful to ensure safe and successful treatment for those in need of this option.
Ice and Heat Treatments
People struggling with ankle pain from peroneal tendonitis may find relief by applying ice or heat to the area. Cold and hot packs can bring down the swelling and minimize discomfort. Ice treatment is preferable when symptoms first appear, as the ice numbs the area and constricts blood vessels to reduce swelling. After a few days, switching to heat treatment promotes blood flow and healing while relaxing and relieving muscles.
Stretching is also important for recovering from peroneal tendonitis and preventing injury in the first place. Doctors may recommend particular stretches, but the most common include a sitting towel stretch and a calf wall stretch. Working the deep calf muscles with a standing soleus stretch is another popular suggestion, along with motions to maintain flexibility. Repeating each stretch and doing so multiple times a day will improve peroneal tendonitis and encourage healing.
Importance of the Peroneal Tendons
Each leg has two peroneal tendons, which run parallel down the fibula bone in the lower leg. One tendon attaches at the base of the little toe, to the outside of the foot, while the other travels beneath the foot and connects on the inner arch. Taking care of the peroneal tendons is important for people of all ages, so they can stay comfortable on their feet and continue with the physical activities they enjoy. Taking measures to prevent injury and treating any pain right away helps protect the overall health of muscles and tendons.