Dealing with Tendon Injuries (During the Age of COVID-19)

May 19, 2020

There’s never a good time to suffer a tendon injury. That’s a given.

Right now, however, may be one of the worst. Sure, you’re probably not in the middle of an athletic season or training for a marathon, since COVID-19 has shut down just about every kind of organized athletic event.

But an injury in the middle of a pandemic just means you’re even more stuck at home. Worse, you might hesitate over whether it’s really the right time to venture out and seek help from a foot and ankle specialist. That can lead to delays or mistakes in treatment, and potentially even long-term consequences.

In this blog, we’ll talk about some of the things you may be able to do at home to help you deal with a tendon injury. But first, we need to make an important point:

Pain is always an emergency. If you’ve been injured, please call us right away. We can help you, and it’s possible you may not even have to leave your home.

A Closer Look at Tendon Injuries of the Feet and Ankles

Tendons are tough yet soft connective tissues that attach muscles to bones, so that when those muscles extend and contract they move the appropriate part of your body. They tend to be weakest right near the point where they attach or insert into the bone, so that’s where injuries usually happen.

The most common tendon-related issue our patients experience is Achilles tendinitis. This refers to inflammation, or sometimes degeneration or even partial tearing, of the tendon fibers in the “heel cord” at the back end of your foot and ankle.

Most of the time, the condition presents itself as a dull ache at the back of the leg, just above the heel—at least at first. The longer your live with Achilles tendinitis, the more likely that ache will get worse and worse, often spiking after a period of activity (running or climbing stairs, for example).

Other common symptoms include mild swelling, tenderness, and stiffness and pain when moving the foot up or down.

A more serious tendon injury would be an Achilles rupture. Here, the tendon tears completely, usually in a single traumatic incident. It’s intensely painful, and may even be accompanied by a “popping” sound.

Although not as common, many other tendons in the foot and ankle become injured. This includes extensor tendinitis (top of the foot), posterior tibial tendinitis (inner side of the foot), peroneal tendonitis (outer side of the foot), and others. In each case, the basic symptoms (aching pain, tenderness, swelling) are broadly the same, just in a different area.

Tendon injuries are especially common in active adults, from around age 30 to age 50 or so. That’s the “sweet spot” where many people remain highly physically active, but their tendons may have lost some flexibility and durability with age. Too much stress and strain, either all at once or spread out over time, can lead to problems.

How Do I Stop Nerve Pain In My Feet?

Treating Tendon Problems at Home

Fortunately, many mild-to-moderate cases of tendinitis can be resolved with home care. We’re sure that’s something you’re happy to hear, especially at a time like this!

The best thing you can do when you first feel a dull ache and you suspect a mild case of tendinitis is to follow the RICE protocol:

  • Rest. Discontinue any vigorous or high-impact exercises or activities for several days. Try to stay off your feet as much as you can.
  • Ice. Apply an ice pack to the painful area 3-4 times per day, up to 15-20 minutes at a time. Always put a protective layer like a thin towel around the ice pack to protect your skin.
  • Compression. If you have anything like an ACE wrap or other compression bandages or braces, use them.
  • Elevation. Put your foot up as often as you can when you sit or lie down. Raising it above heart level is especially effective to help control swelling.

Stepping in with RICE therapy right away often takes care of the problem if it’s a mild case. You can also use over-the-counter anti-inflammatories as directed, if it’s safe for you to do so. (Check with us or your primary care doctor if you aren’t sure.)

What If Home Care Isn’t Enough?

If you suffer a tendon injury that is more painful than a mild ache, not improving after a few days of RICE therapy, or keeps coming back again and again, please give our office a call.

Depending on the causes and symptoms of your tendon problem, you may require treatments such as more extensive physical therapy, laser therapy, or in severe cases (such as with a tendon rupture) immobilization and/or surgery.

We understand that, with COVID-19 still on everyone’s mind, you might not love the idea of seeking care right now. We get it. But there’s a few things you should know that might help soothe your anxiety.

One is that, in many cases, you may not need to come to our office at all! After you call us and describe your symptoms, we may suggest a telemedicine appointment in lieu of an in-office visit. One of our doctors can meet with you over video, examine your feet, talk with you about your symptoms, and recommend a next step for treatment. It may be the case that we simply provide you with more detailed instructions on stretching and other therapy exercises you can do at home.

Two, even if we do determine that an in-person visit is the best choice, you can rest assured knowing we take your health and safety extremely seriously. You won’t have to sit in the waiting room with other patients, or expose yourself to unnecessary risks. We’ll take you straight from your car through a side entrance to your exam room, which has been thoroughly disinfected. We’re also limiting the number of patients who can be in the office at any given time, enforcing social distancing, wearing masks, and much more. You can learn more about our COVID-19 procedures here.

Finally, understand that, as with almost any other painful foot and ankle condition, treating your problem early and correctly is the best way to keep that problem from requiring even more doctor visits and treatments in the future. We certainly don’t want your mild or moderate tendon injury to worsen into a severe or chronic one! Taking care of it now is almost always the safest and best solution, even if it does require an in-person treatment.

So don’t let a tendon injury keep you from being as active as you want to be, even in these unusual times! Call the Burlington County Foot & Ankle Associates today at (609) 714-0052, and we’ll help you make a wise decision regarding your care options.

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520 Stokes Road,
Suite C-5
Medford, NJ 08055

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