The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Ankle Tenosynovitis! (Teno–what?)

Posted by on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

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I tell you, it never ceases to amaze me how many little nutty ways you can find to hurt your body. It is indeed a beautiful machine, but there are many parts to that machine, and it only takes a minor glitch or two to make something go down.

This is particularly true of the feet/ankle/lower leg area. We take walking, running, and standing for granted (most of the time–until something happens where we can’t), but there are lots of parts at work for every step we take.

With that in mind, I bring you today’s ouchy, achey problem: tenosynovitis. If you’ve heard about this recently, then I’m guessing you’re an NBA fan who’s been wondering, “What’s up with Kobe?” So let’s find out what’s up with tenosynovitis?

Okay, what’s up with tenosynovitis? I mean, what IS tenosynovitis? Tendons are tissue that connect your muscles to your bones. In some areas, such as the ankles and wrists, the tendons are covered with a synovial sheath that helps protect the tendons from the friction that comes with motion. Tenosynovitis is when that sheath becomes irritated and inflamed. It’s typically found in the ankles, Achilles tendon, and wrists. Since we are a podiatry blog, we’re going to concentrate on the ankle and Achilles type.

Got it. But what causes it? Tenosynovitis typically comes from overuse or overtraining, but it can also be the result of an extreme movement, such as a bad twist. Additionally, it can occur as the result of an infection in the body, or an untreated cut or sore in the area of the foot or ankle (are you as freaked out right now as I am? Talking/writing/reading about infections does that to me.).

Hey, while we’re on the topic, what’s the difference between tendinitis and tenosynovitis? Just in case it comes up. Good question! It’s very simple. Tendinitis affects the tendon, while tenosynovitis affects the tendon sheath. Any other questions?

Well, yeah. The usual–how do you know you have it? It’s all in the flexion–if you have pain in the front of the ankle area–the area between the end of your leg and the top of your foot–when you flex your foot or try to point your toes upward, then you likely have tenosynovitis in your ankle (or tibialis anterior tendon sheath inflammation, if you want to get fancy about it). If you feel the pain in the back of that area, the Achilles tendon, when you flex your foot, then you likely have Achilles tenosynovitis. As always, if you want to be sure, you should see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) for an accurate diagnosis.

What do I do if I suspect I have some kind of tenosynovitis? Start with rest–I know, if you’ve gotten this injury from overuse or overtraining, then rest is probably you’re least favorite word, but sometimes you have to do it; if you don’t take care of tenosynovitis, it can become chronic, so it’s better to knock it out on the first try. So take some time off and apply ice to the area a few times a day. You can also take anti-inflammatory drugs to help with the pain. Some people say diet can help, such as by eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties (see anti-inflammatory food lists here and here) an anti-inflammatory diet, or, if you’re primal enough, eat a paleo diet to heal better and build muscle.

Another thing to do is make sure that your shoes aren’t too tight, or that you’re not lacing them too tight. If you suspect this comes from shoes (or skates, if that’s your sport) that are pressing on the tendon, loosen them up or get some padding to protect the tendon.

If that doesn’t help after a few days, you should go see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). A podiatrist can attack the problem in a variety of ways, such as by using lasers or ultrasound to help the area heal more quickly. Deep massage can also help. After the injury is healed, a podiatrist can recommend stretching exercises or a course of physical therapy to help prevent the injury from happening.

There you go, the basic facts of tenosynovitis, another little foot injury. If you have tenosynovitis, or any other foot issue and need help, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.