Rubber bands are useful in so many ways. They hold ponytails in place, keep a deck of cards together, and keep a newspaper rolled. When they stretch too far, however, they snap, and they can no longer perform these tasks. The tendons in our bodies are like that. They are flexible bands of tissues that connect our muscles to our bones. An injury can prevent them from doing their job—and you from doing what you love. Peroneal tendon injuries especially can knock you off your feet—literally.
We have two peroneal tendons which are found in our feet and run alongside each other behind the ankle bone. One attaches to the outside of the midfoot, and the other runs underneath the foot and attaches near the interior of your arch. These tendons have the important job of stabilizing ankles and feet, and protecting them against sprains. So clearly, an injury can have a profound effect on our day-to-day activities.
Peroneal tendon injuries fall into two catergories: they can be chronic, meaning the injury develops over time as a result of repetitive overuse, or they can be acute, which refers to a sudden trauma like a sprain. Having high arches puts you at risk of developing the condition, as does participating in sports that put continuous stress on your ankles. There are three basic injuries that can affect these tendons:
Tendonitis—this is an inflammation of one or both peroneal tendons, resulting in pain and swelling. The area may also feel warm to the touch.
Sublaxtion—with this type of injury, one or both tendons slip out of place. This can be due to an imbalance in bone or muscle shape at birth, or to a trauma such as a sprain. It can also be the result of damage to a band of tissue called the retinaculum, which stabilizes the tendons. To avoid a chronic problem, treatment is critical to prevent the injury from progressing into an actual tear. Catch symptoms early! If you experience a snapping feeling around your ankle bone, as well as sporadic pain and weakness, seek help right away.
Tears—acute tears occur suddenly and are characterized by swelling, pain and a feeling of weakness and instability. Left untreated these types of tears can actually re-shape your foot and cause the arch in your foot to become higher, accentuating the problem. Tears can also be degenerative. Also known as tendonosis, this type of injury happens with overuse spanning a long period of time. The tendon becomes so overstretched that it eventually tears. Symptoms include sporadic pain, ankles that feel weak and unstable, and an arch that increases in height.
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If you think you may have a peroneal tendon injury, it’s important to have your foot examined and the injury evaluated as soon as possible so that treatment can begin. Depending on the injury and the patient, treatment options usually include immobilization, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, as well as bracing. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the tendons and sometimes even the supportive foot structure. Rehabilitation will follow.
The podiatrists at Achilles Foot and Ankle Center can diagnose peroneal tendon injuries and recommend appropriate treatment for the type of injury. Don’t let your body’s “rubber bands” break! Make an appointment or visit Achilles Foot and Ankle Center in Richmond VA to find out more.