Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon, a thick cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone. Achilles tendinitis, or an inflammation of the Achilles tendon, is one of the most common causes of foot or ankle pain.
Other types of foot/ankle tendinitis include posterior tibial tendinitis and peroneal tendinitis.
Tendinitis can result from an injury or over-use, says Dr. Mark S. Smesko, a podiatric physician and surgeon with Ankle & Foot Care Centers in Youngstown, Ohio.
Improper stretching prior to exertion or incorrect form during physical activity can also contribute to the development of tendinitis, Dr. Smesko said.
Some people, including those with “flat feet,” tight tendons or arthritis, are particularly prone to tendinitis.
“Pain is the most common symptom of tendinitis,” Dr. Smesko said. “The pain of tendinitis is most noticeable when you try to move that part of your body. The involved tendon may swell.”
Rest and ice can ease the pain of tendinitis, Dr. Smesko said. He recommends staying off a painful foot or ankle as much as possible and applying ice for up to 15 minutes at a time, three to four times a day.
When to Visit a Podiatrist
“If ice and rest don’t eliminate the pain, or if the pain persists beyond a week, it’s a good idea to see a podiatrist,” Dr. Smesko said. “Don’t put that off. Tendinitis can become a chronic problem, and it’s much more difficult to treat a chronic problem than an acute injury.”
Diagnosis and Treatment
A podiatrist seeing a patient with possible tendinitis will ask a patient questions about the pain and his or her general health and likely perform a complete physical examination of the feet and ankles, he said.
The doctor may order X-rays or an MRI to rule out any other problems that often cause pain, like a fracture or torn tendon.
Treatment will focus on relieving the pain and preventing further injury.
“A podiatrist may create shoe inserts or a soft cast to effectively immobilize the affected area,” Dr. Smesko said. “It could take a couple of weeks for a tendon to heal. Medication could be involved as well.”
Custom orthotics can help control the motion of feet and decrease the chance of a patient re-developing tendinitis. A podiatrist may also recommend certain stretches or exercises to increase the tendon’s elasticity and strengthen the muscles attached to the tendon.
“Gradually increasing your activity level with an appropriate training schedule can also help prevent tendinitis,” Dr. Smesko said. “For example, it’s better to build up to a 5K run instead of simply tackling the whole course the first day.”