The word tendonitis literally means inflammation of the tendon. In practice, more patients present with problems related to wear and tear of the tendons around the ankle. In the ankle, there are different groups of tendons to consider: at the back, the best known is the Achilles tendon, and on the front, there are tendons which lift your toes and ankle up. There are other groups of important tendons on both the inner and the outer sides of the ankle.
What problems does tendonitis cause?
The problems that patients get with tendonitis around the ankle vary according to which tendon it is. The best known problem is related to the Achilles tendon where patients often notice pain and stiffness, often when they first get out of bed in the morning. The pain can then ease up for a while, allowing patients to do normal activities including sport, though this will often cause the patient to "suffer for it" the next day.
One particular problem involves tendons on the inner side of the ankle. These important tendons help hold up the instep or arch of the foot and unfortunately, the elastic can fail in this posterior tibial tendon. This tendon failure may not cause much problem for the patient, until they notice that the shape of their foot has changed.
What causes ankle tendonitis?
Tendonitis around the ankle can be caused by an injury, often the tendons on the outer side of the ankle (peroneal tendons) are affected after a sprain. Wear and tear is another cause of ankle tendon problems, and we can't escape the fact that, as we get older, the structure of the tendons becomes a little more brittle and attritional injuries are more common.
In the Achilles tendon, this gives rise to pain and stiffness at the back of the heel. With the tendon holding up the arch of the instep (posterior tibial tendon), the foot will gradually change shape as the tendons start to stretch out.
How long does it take to recover from ankle tendon injuries?
When treating an Achilles tendon injury, it’s important to remember that recovery doesn't happen quickly. The physiotherapy stretching exercises you’ll be given usually work very well, as long as you do them frequently as instructed.
If progress is very slow, then a full assessment to check for any underlying reason for this can be important. Rest also plays a part in an optimum recovery.
If the recovery is not going well, then a scan can be helpful in checking the severity of the tendon problem and also highlighting anything else that may be contributing to the slow progress. In some situations, further treatments are required with a course of injections that can be very effective at settling inflammation around the tendon.
A treatment called shockwave can also help, by rekindling the healing process.
Thankfully, these days, surgical operations are very rarely required.
If you are suffering with ankle pain, you can make an appointment with a specialist here.