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Wow! This week I had the worst chronic peroneal tendon rupture I have ever seen! My patient had sustained an “ankle sprain” about two years ago and wondered why her ankle looked more like a “cankle” two years later. She had a large lump just behind her fibular malleolus (a.k.a. the bone on the outside of your ankle). She noticed swelling on and off, but it never really went down all the way. She also had intermittent pain and felt like her ankle was unstable. Like most women with several children, she ignored it until it really became a lifestyle issue. She felt like she couldn’t exercise at all because her ankle felt so unstable.
Peroneal tendon injuries often occur with ankle sprains and are commonly overlooked until your ankle pain becomes chronic. The peroneal tendons stabilize the outside of your foot and ankle and allow you to turn your foot outward. There are two tendons which run side by side, behind your outer ankle bone, then split in the foot; one to the outside while the larger one dives under your foot and inserts in the arch just behind your big toe joint.
People with high-arched feet are more likely to experience peroneal tendon injuries.
Peroneal tendon injuries fall into three categories: tendonitis, tears, and subluxation. They are more common in active, athletic patients and can be acute (sudden) or chronic (lingering) in nature.
Tendonitis is inflammation, acute tears are caused by an injury and tendonosis (chronic tears) are usually caused by overuse and repetitive stress or chronic tendonitis. Subluxation usually occurs in an acute injury, like an ankle sprain, where the tendons actually dislocate onto the outer ankle bone and snap back and forth with activity.
The symptoms of a peroneal tendon injury can include swelling, pain, warmth, weakness and instability of the foot and ankle. Subluxation can also include a snapping feeling and sporadic pain with activity.
Treatment of peroneal tendon injuries is often delayed by misdiagnosis. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a peroneal injury, seek medical attention from a foot and ankle surgeon urgently. The longer the tendons go untreated, the more damage occurs. X-rays and physical examination usually lead to an MRI to solidify the diagnosis. My patient’s MRI showed a severe rupture of peroneus brevis with a bulbous scar tissue formation which you can see in the below picture. Peroneus longus was normal.
Treatment include rest, casting, functional orthotics, anti-inflammatory medication or injection therapy, physical therapy, bracing, and in some cases surgery. Obviously, my patient needed a repair. We excised the torn and hypertrophied part of the tendon, then repaired the rest and fixed her ligaments so she would stop being so unstable and finally lose her “cankle”. Here is the piece of abnormal tendon we excised. Wow! Big chunk!!
Your disability from a peroneal tendon injury can be significantly reduced by early intervention, so if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call or contact the office and be evaluated. The sooner you have a proper diagnosis, the faster you will return to normal activity levels pain-free. If my patient had come in earlier to have her “ankle sprain” evaluated, conservative therapy might have healed her tendon injury!
EPAT is the most advanced non-invasive treatment for musculoskeletal pain. Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Treatment is a new way to conquer chronic heel pain. Pressure waves stimulate the metabolism, enhance circulation and accelerate the healing process without surgery. Dmaged tissue of the plantar fascia or Achilles tendon gradually regenerates and eventually heals. Here are the top 16 frequently asked questions about EPAT.
The Top 16 FAQ’s About EPAT Therapy for Heel Pain
Spring is finally here! That means more and more older runners and athletes are flocking to my Grapevine, Texas, office complaining of a multitude of aches and pains. 'Tis the season to overtrain and suffer from the dreaded tendonitis. What is this mysterious 'itis? Why does it effect aging athlete's more than the younger ones? Why does one person have multiple bouts of recurrent tendonitis all over their body and another does not? These are all great questions!
Let's start with the basics. A tendon connects your muscles to the bones. It is a flexible but really tough band of fibrous tissue. A muscle contracts to move one of your joints and transmits a force on the tendon to cause the movement. Tendons, when functioning normally, glide very smoothly when the muscle contracts. When they are irritated, they cause pain and even creaking when they glide. This is tendonitis or in easier terms, inflammation of the tendon.
Tendonitis can occur in any tendon, but in your foot and ankle the most common tendons effected are the ones that stabilize you foot when you run, jump and play with the other kids. These are the Achilles tendon, the posterior tibial tendon, the anterior tibial tendon and the peroneal tendons. Less likely to be irritated are the multitude of smaller flexor and extensor tendons in your feet.
Tendonitis is more common in your aging athletes between 40 and 60. This is because the lovely aging process causes our tendons to become less elastic and therefore less forgiving. A stress that would've been easily absorbed in our 20-year-old tendons causes tendonitis and even rupture in our 40+-year-old tendons.
Tendonitis is usually due to repetitive stress with an underlying biomechanical abnormality or anatomical deviation. This is why it is important to treat the tendonitis and the underlying cause before return to sport. If not, recurrence rates are high!
What does tendonitis feel like? Pain and swelling in the tendons usually first thing in the morning or at the beginning of an activity. The pain and stiffness often "warms up" in the early stages, but can become constant if you ignore the early symptoms. Sharp stabbing pains can occur but these are usually a sign that your tendon is so stressed it may actually tear!
How is it diagnosed? Usually your doctor will perform a physical exam and then rule out a bone problem or fracture with an x-ray. Sometimes an MRI is needed to rule out a small or partial tendon tear.
Treatment for tendonitis begins with relative rest. Take the stress off the inflamed tendon by doing alternative exercise like cycling or swimming. Sometimes complete rest is needed. Ice, anti-inflammatory medicines, bracing, physical therapy and even a cortisone injection may be needed. Functional foot orthotics are often quite helpful in chronic tendonitis because they stabilize the abnormal movements and help treat the underlying biomechanics of your feet.
Remember that after having a bout of tendonitis, slowly return to activity and try to avoid the overuse that caused the tendonitis in the first place! Too much, too soon, too fast syndrome is often the culprit in tendonitis!
Did you know that there are more than 250,000 Achilles tendon injuries in the United States each year? Of these injuries, almost 25% require some kind of medical intervention to heal. A fully ruptured tendon requires surgery. Most other injuries can be treated conservatively and will resolve without surgery.
The most poorly understood Achilles tendon injury is actually not an injury of the tendon, but an inflammation of the bursa sac that separates the tendon insertion on the heel bone from the back of your ankle. The fluid in the bursa actually allows the tendon to move smoothly over the bone. When the bursa sac becomes irritated from frequent or abnormal movement, it becomes inflamed and bursitis can set in.
Achilles bursitis, also known as retrocalcaneal bursitis, is a common overuse injury in runners, hockey players, football player and many other athletes. Improper shoe gear and too much, too soon, too fast syndrome are usually the cause of this pain in the heel. It can also be seen in non-athletes who wear poor shoe gear or low cut shoes. Often it is seen in people with rigid, high arched feet.
Bursitis is a painful swelling that occurs in the back of the heel just deep to the Achilles tendon insertion on the heel bone. This inflammation makes it painful to squat, lunge or run uphill. Many shoes press on this area and make the pain worse. Even running on uneven or soft surfaces can increase the inflammation.
First line therapy for Achilles bursitis is rest, ice, heel lifts or heel cups and gentle stretching. Many patients require physical therapy and functional foot orthotics for complete relief of symptoms. Severe cases my even require a period of non-weight bearing casting or bracing prior to physical therapy in order to decrease the inflammation of the bursa. Chronic cases may even require more invasive therapy with extra corporeal shock wave therapy or injection of platelet rich plasma to jump start the healing process. Surgery is rarely needed unless bursitis is ignored for a significant period of time.
Long standing Achilles bursitis can cause significant difficulty in ankle movement and often a spur will form within the insertion of the tendon. Left untreated, this can eventually cause a rupture of the Achilles tendon at the insertion and lead to life long disability. If you are experiencing painful swelling in the back of your ankle, seek the help of your podiatrist early, so you can get back to running quickly and avoid any long term effects of this chronic inflammatory syndrome.
So Run Happy! And Injury Free!
It has been a rough early fall for Misty May-Treanor, Olympic Beach volleyball champion. She was in the preliminary rounds of "Dancing with the Stars" when she ruptured her Achilles tendon in practice. She had successful surgery on her tendon and hopes to be back to competition soon. Many people have asked "If such a terrible injury happened to such a conditioned athlete, how can I prevent it from happening to me?"
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body. It is a large ropelike band of fibrous tissue in the back of the ankle that connects the powerful calf muscles to the heel bone (calcaneus). When the calf muscles contract, the Achilles tendon is tightened, pulling the heel. This allows you to point your foot and stand on tiptoe. It is vital to such activities as walking, running, and jumping. An Achilles tendon rupture is a complete tear through the tendon, which usually occurs about 2 inches above the heel bone.
The Achilles tendon can grow weak and thin with age and lack of use. Then it becomes prone to injury or rupture. Certain illnesses and medications can also increase the risk of rupture.
Rupture most commonly occurs in the middle-aged male athlete (the weekend warrior who is engaging in a pickup game of basketball, for example). Injury often occurs during recreational sports that require bursts of jumping, pivoting, and running. Most often these are racquet sports and basketball, but any forceful push off can cause a rupture. Most ruptures are obvious and the person experiences a sudden and severe pain may be felt at the back of the ankle or calf—often described as "being hit by a rock or shot." The sound of a loud pop or snap may be reported. Initial pain, swelling, and stiffness may be followed by bruising and weakness. The pain may decrease quickly and smaller tendons may retain the ability to point the toes. Without the Achilles tendon, though, this would be very difficult. Standing on tiptoe and pushing off when walking will be impossible. A complete tear is more common than a partial tear.
Tendon strain or tendon inflammation (tendonitis) can occur from tendon injury or overuse and can lead to a rupture. Most likely, although not reported, Misty May-Treanor had a minor chronic tendonitis from her volleyball competitions and then aggravated it with the strain of dancing. "Dancing with the Stars" training has been reported to be significant and quite taxing even to the athletes that are competing!
How can I prevent this happening to me? Treat any tendon symptoms before they lead to rupture! Call your doctor if you have any signs of minor tendon problems including pain with activity, swelling and problems with standing on your toes. Tendon strain or tendon inflammation (tendonitis) can occur from tendon injury or overuse and can lead to a rupture. Prevention centers on appropriate daily Achilles stretching and pre-activity warm-up. Maintain a continuous level of activity in your sport or work up gradually to full participation if you have been out of the sport for a period of time. Good overall muscle conditioning helps maintain a healthy tendon.
What should I do if I think my Achilles tendon is injured? Any acute injury causing pain, swelling, and difficulty with weight-bearing activities such as standing and walking may indicate you have a tear in your Achilles tendon. Seek prompt medical attention from your doctor or emergency room. Do not delay! Early treatment results in better outcome. The majority of people return to normal activity levels with either surgical or nonsurgical treatment. Most studies indicate a better outcome with surgery. Athletes can expect a faster return to activity with a lower incidence that the injury will happen again. Return to running or athletics is traditionally about 4-6 months. With motivation and rigorous physical therapy, elite athletes may return to athletics as early as 3 months after injury.
Remember that your Achilles tendon is needed for almost all activities! Treat it right and see your podiatrist if you have any symptoms of Achilles tendonitis to avoid an Achilles tendon rupture like Misty May-Treanor!
This week a very good runner from Wichita Falls came in with an Achilles tendon problem. He gave a horrible story of a primary care physician who injected his Achilles bursae TWICE with cortisone. He was looking for better answers and was willing to drive almost 2 hours south to find them.
I was almost apoplectic! Injected his tendon or even around his tendon?! In my world, that’s almost borderline malpractice; but I can’t fault the physician, she obviously didn’t know any better and was trying to treat the patient. Bottom line: Go to a sports medicine physician. We would all tell you the same thing: injecting the Achilles tendon can lead to spontaneous rupture which would basically end his running days. Look at poor Dan Marino…a ruptured Achilles tendon ended his Hall of Fame career!
Let’s talk about Achilles tendon injuries. They are very common especially in runners with high arched feet or very flat feet. Both of these foot types put way too much torque on the tendon and will cause a wear and tear tendonitis that eventually becomes tendonosis without proper treatment.
Tendonitis results from overuse. Long-standing tendonitis becomes tendonosis (degeneration of the tendon) which is much harder to treat. This overuse can happen over a period of time or can happen over a weekend. Those of you who exercise regularly or are in training for an athletic event, as strong as the Achilles tendon is, this work horse could use a break every once in a while! With chronic, long term, sustained use, this tendon becomes strained. It also can become just as strained with whom we fondly refer to as the “weekend warriors”. You know who you are! You are the ones who think it perfectly o.k. to hike the Appalachian Trail or take the steep way down the Grand Canyon over a three day weekend because “it was there”! Marathon runners who decide they can run the Western States 100 without the proper training….you can't hide for long....I will find you....
The simplest form of treatment can involve rest, heel lifts, icing, inserts, night splints, custom orthotics and anti-inflammatories. More complex forms Achilles tendonitis can include immobilization through a boot or cast, physical therapy, and in the most resistant cases, surgery. Active release myofascial release is very helpful. Thank God for David Bloom at Restoration Physical Therapy and Dr. Darryl Laney at Laney Chiropractic in Keller! Most of my long-standing Achilles tendon injuries are successfully treated with aggressive PT and manipulation on top of orthotic control. The longer you have it, the worse it gets. Do not let it get that far. Tendonosis is a chronic degeneration that can lead to splitting of the tendon and long term disability!
Thinking of waiting to see if it works itself out or are trying to work through the pain? Let us help you reconsider. Chronic Achilles tendonitis (tendonosis) results in degeneration and breakdown within the tendon and this, in turn, can lead to a partial tear or full rupture. Now that will put you out for more than a couple months! If you are experiencing a nagging pain or swelling to the Achilles tendon or the back of the heel, call or contact the office to have it evaluated. It is that simple!
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