Foot extensor tendons run from the tips of your toes to the front of your legs. If you're experiencing pain when your feet move, you may have tendonitis — which means your tendons are injured or inflamed. Foot extensor tendonitis exercises are an important part of the rehabilitation process.
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Extensor Tendons and Tendonitis
There are tendons all over your body, connecting your muscles to your bones. Extensor tendons are tendons that can be found in both your hands and feet.
According to a September 2014 study in the Foot and Ankle International Journal, foot extensor tendons are found on the upper side of your foot and run from the tip of your toes up your legs. These tendons help you flex your foot back and forth and allow you to pull it upward.
If you're experiencing foot pain on the upper side of your foot and have no bruising or other obvious external injuries, you may be experiencing extensor tendonitis pain. According to Harvard Health Publishing, tendonitis occurs when your tendons become inflamed, irritated or have been injured. Note that some medical sources refer to the condition as tendinitis. This and tendonitis are the same thing.
Tendinitis is often due to overuse of a certain area — like if you're on your feet all day. It may also be due to your walking pattern. Foot extensor tendonitis symptoms can even be caused by shoes that are too tight or that don't provide you with proper support.
According to the National Health Service, common symptoms of tendonitis include swelling around the affected area and a noticeable lump somewhere on the affected tendon. You're also likely to have trouble moving the tendon or experience pain when you do so.
Keep in mind that foot extensor tendonitis is on the top of the foot. Pain under your foot or concentrated around your heel is often due to a problem with your plantar fascia, like plantar fasciitis. Pain in other regions, like behind your ankle, is more likely to be due to a problem with your Achilles tendon. Both of these problems can occur for the same reasons as foot extensor tendonitis.
If you're not sure if you have tendonitis, you should consult your doctor or physical therapist. You may have a fractured or broken toe that may require different treatment.
Read more: 7 Things That Can Cause Tight Tendons
Foot Extensor Tendonitis Rehabilitation
According to Harvard Health Publishing, tendonitis treatment typically begins with rest. Extensor tendonitis rehabilitation can be particularly challenging, since you may need to reduce the amount of time you spend on your feet.
If you need to perform activities that continue aggravating your foot extensor tendons, consider icing them afterward. You can apply ice to the top of your feet for 20-minute periods a few times each day. However, it's best to apply ice immediately after the activity that causes you pain. You can also take over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin, to minimize your extensor tendonitis symptoms.
Although you need to may need to avoid running, hiking and other activities, moving the affected area is an important part of the tendonitis rehabilitation process. Extensor tendonitis exercises typically focus on gentle flexibility exercises.
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society and Harvard Health Publishing recommend performing a variety of different flexibility exercises. Any exercise that involves you gently moving your toes and foot can help support foot extensor tendonitis rehabilitation.
It's best to start with gentle stretches, like simply raising your foot up and down or rotating your foot clockwise. You can also try marble or towel pick-ups, which are exactly like they sound — you need to pick up marbles or a towel with your toes. This action essentially requires you to curl your toes back and forth, stretching the tendons.
You can also try the toe raise, point and curl, which requires you to raise your foot as if you were tip-toeing, point your foot, and then curl your foot for 5 seconds each. You should repeat the process 10 times. You can even try repeated toe raises, which can be done sitting or even standing.
Foot extensor tendonitis exercises like these are more likely to trigger pain if your tendonitis is quite severe. You should never stretch to a point of pain. Switch to a different exercise or reduce the number of repetitions if you experience pain or any other issues.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Exercises for Healthy Feet"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Tendonitis"
- Foot and Ankle International Journal: "Extensor Apparatus of the Lesser Toes: Anatomy With Clinical Implications--Topical Review."
- National Health Service: "Tendonitis"
- Mayo Clinic: "Plantar Fasciitis"
- American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society: "How to Keep Feet Flexible"