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There are tendons all over your body. They connect your muscles to the bones in your joints, such as the shoulders and elbows, by thick, strong cords of fibrous connective tissue. (1)
These highly tensile and flexible bands transmit muscle strength to your skeletal structure and enable your limbs to move freely.
However, excessive use, mechanical trauma, or injury can damage the tendon, resulting in pain and inflammation. This condition is referred to as tendonitis, which can affect any part of the body where a tendon is present. (2) This chapter will focus on foot tendonitis.
Your feet carry the load of your body everywhere, putting them through a lot of wear and tear regularly. The repeated strain on the tendons in your feet can cause tendonitis over time.
Not just that, any incorrect or abrupt movement can overstretch your tendon and make it snap instantly. This is especially common among professional and recreational athletes who may twist their angle too much or employ the wrong technique while sprinting, jogging, or playing sports.
The main symptoms of foot tendonitis are:
- Severe pain in the foot that is aggravated by movement
- Inability to move the foot properly
- A grating or crackling sensation when you move the foot
- Swelling, which may be accompanied by heat or redness
- Signs of inflammation, such as swelling, sometimes with heat or redness
- Pain in a tendon that gets worse when you move (3)
You need to consult a doctor if these symptoms persist for more than a few weeks despite proper rest and home treatment.
Home Remedies for Foot Tendonitis
Here are some natural ways to reduce the pain, swelling, and inflammation caused by foot tendonitis as well as to promote fast recovery.
1. Consume asparagus
When a tendon gets injured, the body increases blood flow to the affected area to supply more nutrients and white blood cells for proper healing.
The extra blood brings more fluid to the site of injury, which may accumulate around the damaged tissue. This fluid buildup can exacerbate the pain and swelling in your foot, further restricting your mobility.
Asparagus can help tackle this problem due to its natural diuretic properties. (4) It helps increase urine output to flush out excess fluid from the body.
How to use:
- Regularly consume fresh asparagus, either raw or steamed.
- Fresh fish and yogurt are other foods that can help reduce fluid retention in the body.
2. Apply a warm compress and wear compression aids
Applying a warm compress to the affected area can help provide quick relief from the pain and inflammation caused by tendonitis. (5)
The gentle heat stimulates blood circulation under the skin to disperse any fluid buildup around the injured tendon. This helps bring down the swelling and pain so that you can move your foot more easily.
Plus, you can wear compression aids such as socks or ankle braces to limit fluid accumulation in the area as well as the resultant swelling and pain.
3. Try an Epsom salt soak or bath
Epsom salt, (6) or magnesium sulfate, works as a strong anti-inflammatory agent that can help alleviate the discomfort caused by foot tendonitis. It is quickly absorbed into the skin and curbs the swelling and pain in the underlying tendon.
Plus, it stimulates blood circulation in the area to further reduce inflammation and disperse any fluid buildup around the tendon. More blood brings more nutrients to the injury site to repair the damaged tissue faster.
How to use:
- Put a cup of Epsom salt in a bucket full of water. Stir the water so that the salt dissolves. Soak the affected feet in the saline solution for 15–20 minutes.
- Add Epsom salt to your bathwater, and soak your entire body in it for full body relaxation.
4. Massage with castor oil
Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid, (7) which provides significant anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Using it topically can help soothe the pain and inflammation associated with foot tendonitis.
How to use:
- Gently massage a tablespoon of cold-compressed castor oil on the affected area.
- Apply a warm compress over it for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the compress and wash off the oil.
- Do this twice daily.
5. Use apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (8) is credited with strong anti-inflammatory properties due to the presence of acetic acid in it. Thus, it can help mitigate the pain, swelling, and stiffness caused by foot tendonitis.
How to use:
- Mix half a cup of raw apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of warm water. Soak a clean washcloth in this solution, and then wring out the excess liquid. Place the damp cloth on the affected area for 20–30 minutes
- Mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and consume daily.
6. Try ginger
Ginger contains a compound called gingerol, (9) which exhibits potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects that can help ease the pain, swelling, and other inflammatory symptoms associated with foot tendonitis.
How to use:
- Put 1–2 inches of ginger in a cup of hot water. Let it steep for 5–10 minutes. Strain the tea and drink it while still hot. Do this twice daily for faster healing.
- Dip a clean cloth in ginger tea, and apply it all over the affected area.
Treatment Modalities for Foot Tendonitis
General practitioners generally prescribe painkillers and topical NSAIDs to manage mild to moderate pain and inflammation triggered by tendonitis.
Physiotherapy may be recommended in cases when the pain is so severe or long lasting that it greatly inhibits your movement.
If that fails to provide relief, the next step is usually to visit an orthopedic specialist or a local musculoskeletal clinic for a more thorough assessment.
Other lesser-used medical interventions for treating severe tendonitis include:
- Cortisone injections may be needed to treat pain and inflammation that does not respond to rest or other treatments.
- Shockwave therapy may help promote quick healing.
- Platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP) may help speed up tissue repair.
- Surgery is recommended to excise the damaged tissue or repair a torn tendon. (3)
Prevention Against Foot Tendonitis
- Warm up before exercising and gently stretch afterward.
- Take regular breaks from repetitive exercises.
- Wear supportive shoes for exercise.
Most-Asked Questions About Foot Tendonitis
How long does it take for foot tendonitis to go away?
The recovery time for foot tendonitis depends on the severity of the condition and how well you follow your doctor’s orders.
A lot of cases resolve within 4–8 weeks, but you need to minimize the strain on the affected feet during that time to prevent further tissue damage and ensure timely healing. The more you rest the foot in the initial days, the faster it will heal.
Will I need surgery?
Foot tendonitis generally doesn’t require surgery except in cases when the tendon becomes completely torn from the bone or muscle.
What causes foot tendonitis?
- Acute tears – Tears that occur suddenly, perhaps while playing a sport or any activity
- Tendinosis – Tears that occur over time as a result of overuse, age, or a degenerative condition
- Tendinitis – Inflammation of the tendon that causes pain, redness, and warmth to the touch
- Tendinopathy – The presence of both a tendon tear and tendinitis (10)
Foot tendonitis is a painful condition that can greatly limit your movement. It can get progressively worse if not treated properly, so you should consult a doctor for proper guidance.
The tendon tends to heal on its own, but it can take some time to make a full recovery. You have to rest the affected foot as much as you can to allow the tendon to repair itself. Any extra strain or jerk can further damage the tissue, so be very careful while moving about.
Mild to moderate cases can usually be managed through pain medication and NSAIDs along with home remedies, but severe cases require additional treatment.
Seek immediate medical help if you suspect that your tendon has been ruptured during an accident or activity. This is usually characterized by a popping or snapping sound that is followed by severe and sudden pain. You may be referred to a specialist for proper testing and treatment in such cases.