Running with extensor tendonitis is one of the most frustrating experience among runners. It results from the inflammation of the extensor tendons located right on top of the foot. Runners tend to be vulnerable to extensor tendonitis because of the repeated use of their feet or because of wearing tight shoes.
However, there are a number of self-help solutions as well professional therapies which can help you treat extensor tendonitis. From exercise, to wearing the correct running shoes, these remedies aim at ensuring that you don’t get side-lined from your running activities.
In this article you’ll get to know everything about running-related extensor tendonitis including the symptoms, causes and the available treatments.
Symptoms Of Extensor Tendonitis
- Pain on the upper part of the foot, just next to the shoe laces.
- Increased pain during exercise accompanied by swelling or inflammation of the tendon.
- Curling of the toes triggers the pain.
- Stiffness on the foot and ankle.
Note: If you experience some numbness, you could probably be dealing with chronic compartment syndrome.
Causes of Extensor tendonitis
Generally, extensor tendonitis occurs do to overuse of the foot tendons. These tendons suffer excessive strain during activities resulting to pain and inflammation. However, some risk factors might make you more prone to extensor tendonitis than other people. These include:
- Running in tight or tightly-laced shoes causes pressure build up on the extensor tendons, causing them to become inflamed.
- When there’s a sudden change in running activity, your extensor tendons tend to experience sudden changes in stress. A good example is when you shift from the treadmill to run uphill. Your extensor tendons tend to stretch more when you run uphill than on the treadmill.
- When you run downhill, the extensor muscle contract eccentrically (muscle contraction and lengthening occur simultaneously), causing excessive strain on the extensor tendons.
How Do I Know That I Have Extensor Tendonitis?
If you experience pain and/or inflammation across the top of your foot, you could be dealing with extensor tendonitis. The pain is especially acute when running or with any activity that causes the extensor tendons to stretch. However, for a more accurate diagnosis, you can get a physical examination from your physician or doctor. The physical examination will entail:
- The first and easiest test for diagnosing extensor tendonitis is a resisted dorsiflexion test.
- You doctor will ask you to lift the foot and toes up while they put some resistance to the movement.
- If you feel pain on top of the foot, then it is possible that your extensor tendon has an injury.
- An X-ray scan may be performed to rule out chances of bone fracture
- In severe cases, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound may be performed to view the condition of the tendons and muscle. Unlike the resisted dorsiflexion test, this test can help in ascertaining the exact tendons that need treatment.
Treating Extensor Tendonitis
While extensor tendonitis is very common among runners, it can be effectively treated at home using basic do-it-yourself procedures. However, if the symptoms persist even after self-treatment measures, I would recommend that you visit a doctor.
Remedies for extensor tendonitis include:
Do-It-Yourself Remedies for Extensor Tendonitis
- Taking a break from muscle straining activities is a very crucial step for avoiding overuse. This will allow time for the tendon to heel without experiencing further injury. In essence, you might find that resting is all you need to treat the less serious extensor tendonitis.
- An ice cold therapy can help ease the pain and inflammation. Also known as cryotherapy, ice treatment numbs the nerves and reduces the inflammation by limiting blood supply to the muscle. Do not allow ice to come into contact with the skin directly. It may burn your skin. Use a cold therapy or a wet towel. You can also use a cold wrap, especially around the joints
- Wearing the appropriate running shoes can keep your feet free from injuries. The best running shoes for extensor tendonitis should keep your toes from curling and prevent pain on top of your foot.In addition, avoid tying your laces too tightly. Make your laces loose around the painful area or skip some holes altogether.
- You can prevent inflammation of the extensor tendons by using an appropriate foot brace for extensor tendonitis. Usually pain and inflammation of the tendons occur when you strain your feet or wear inappropriate running shoes.Foot braces work by supporting the tendons. Typically, when there’s excessive strain on one tendon, your body tends to caution that tendon by shifting the weight to the other tendons. If you wear a foot brace, pressure will be distributed to all tendons instead of straining one or two tendons.Since foot brace constricts the foot, there’ll be less fluid build-up. Thus, with less strain and less fluids, tendons will recover quickly.
- Perform some exercise to strengthen the extensor muscles and enhance their ability endure subsequent strain. Include some calf exercises to ease the strain on the extensor tendons. Although exercise is necessary, too much of it may cause the injury to recur. Ensure that exercise does not aggravate the pain.
- Wearing proper orthotics provides support and cushioning to the vulnerable area, thus relieving extensor tendons of excessive tension.
If you try the do-it-yourself remedies and the pain doesn’t go away, it is time you seek specialist treatment. An orthopedist will perform an assessment to rule out conditions like, metatarsal stress fractures, degenerative arthritis and atypical gout.
Recommendations from an orthopedist may include:
- The doctor may recommend using Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce the inflammation.
- Your doctor may perform an ultrasound as an electrotherapy for promoting healing.
- If you’re dealing with a long-term extensor tendonitis, your physical therapist may recommend a steroid injection to reduce inflammation. This should be done with a lot of care to avoid weakening the tendons.
Recovery Time for Extensor Tendonitis
While extensor tendonitis may not be a very serious disease, it may side-line you from your running activities. The recovery time for extensor tendonitis varies with individuals and the severity. The good news is that the recovery process can be greatly hastened if you embark on a proper recovery procedure.
The recovery time may range from a few days to several months. Initial treatment will entail procedures for relaxing the tendon and medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
This can be complemented by physical therapy and exercise to speed recovery and strengthen the tendon. You doctor can also recommend ultrasounds to hasten the recovery process. Steroid injections may be used in severe cases, but you’ll have to reduce your foot activity.
If your extensor tendons requires a surgical operation, the recovery time may range from a number of weeks to several months.
Tips for minimizing the recovery time
During your recovery period remember to follow these tips:
- Avoid straining the tendons during your tendon strengthening activities. Overstretching the tendons may delay the healing process or damage the tendon.
- If stretching causes pain, you should stop the exercise immediately to prevent subsequent injury.
- Do your workout when the weather is a bit warm. Cold weather may cause stiffness in your tendons.
- Alternate your workout with a day rest to allow muscles to heal.
- Your diet should include anti-inflammatory foods such as green vegetables, olive oil, tomatoes, whole grains, fruits, nuts, beans etc.
If you’re a runner, your extensor tendonitis may have resulted from overuse of your tendons or wearing tight or tightly-laced shoes. Thus, it possible to avoid pain on top of the foot by wearing running shoes that fit properly and have good support.
In addition, the shoe laces should not exert excessive pressure on top of your foot where extensor tendons are located. You can read about the best running shoes for extensor tendonitis here
Extensor tendonitis is a short-lived condition that should not side-line you from your running activities. With proper treatment, exercise and enough rest, it is possible to defeat extensor tendonitis and get back to your activity.
Wearing the correct running shoes and avoiding tendon strain during recovery, can greatly reduce the recovery time.