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Extensor Tendonitis: What Is It And How Do You Treat It?

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If you have pain that starts in the outside of your calf and travels down the front of your ankle and into your toes, you may have extensor tendonitis. While painful, it is usually not long-lasting and there are effective treatments to ease the pain and help in healing.

What Is Extensor Tendinitis?

The entensors are a group of muscles and tendons that are used to pull your foot upward. They run down your calf, across the top of your ankle and down to your big toe and lesser toes. They are:

  • Extensor hallucis longus
  • Extensor hallucis brevis
  • Extensor digitorum longus
  • Tibialis anterior

When they are overused or injured, they become inflamed, which causes pain, tenderness and swelling. The pain may only be in the top of the foot, or it may run down the calf and extend to the toes, especially the big toe. There may also be tingling and numbness. This condition is most common in athletes such as runners, skiers, climbers and tennis players .

What are The Symptoms of Extensor Tendonitis?

The symptoms of inflamed extensor muscles include:

  • Pain in the top of the foot not caused by a specific injury or trauma
  • Pain that worsens with walking, standing or running
  • Pain in the arch, heel or top of the foot, even when at rest
  • Limping or changes in your stride
  • Swelling or bruising on the top of the foot
  • Tenderness of the area over the hard mid-foot bones
  • Tight shoes aggravate the pain on top of the foot
  • Increased pain after activity

How Is It Diagnosed?

A podiatrist can diagnose extensor tendonitis by taking a history of your condition, performing a physical exam and taking an x-ray to rule out any other source of the pain, such as fractures. A CT or MRI scan can ensure there are no ruptured or torn tendons.

What Are the Treatment Options?

Most of the time, the standard R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) treatment works very well. If there is no improvement within a week or two or staying off your feet is not feasible, your podiatrist may recommend a removable cast or walking boot. Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or capsaicin creams can help ease the pain. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe oral steroids or a steroid injection. Surgery is rarely necessary for extensor tendonitis.

While extensor tendonitis is painful and may limit your activities, it is rarely serious. The key to a quick recovery is to see an podiatrist, such as Better Foot Care, at the first sign of pain and swelling. Your feet are very important, and waiting too long before seeking treatment may cause permanent injury.