Dr. thomas mcdonald patient after foot and ankle surgery

The Causes And Treatments For Equinus Of The Foot

Equinus is a medical condition that is categorized by a restricted upward bending of the ankle joint. This inability to flex the top of your foot towards your leg can cause balance and walking issues, and it can lead to problems in other areas of your body, like your legs, knees, hips and back. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why this flexibility limitation develops, and how someone with equinus can treat the condition.

Causes And Symptoms Of Equinus

There are a number of different underlying factors that can lead to an inhibited upwards flexion of the ankle joint. One of the most common issues is an unnaturally tight Achilles tendon or calf muscle. This tightness can be present for a few different reasons. Some people are born with genetically tight calf muscles, while others develop tightness as a result of injury, prolonged time in a cast or on crutches, or as a result of wearing unsupportive shoes, like high heels. Other contributing causes of equinus include damage from diabetes, a previous injury to the ankle joint, an underlying neurological disorder or having one leg that’s slightly longer than the other.

Symptoms of equinus include:

  • Foot pain
  • Ankle discomfort
  • Difficult walking
  • Lifting up the heel early when walking or taking a number of small steps instead of bigger steps
  • Calf soreness and cramping

Left untreated, the biomechanical changes caused by your limited ankle flexibility can lead to a number of other issues, including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, metatarsalgia, acquired flatfoot, bunions, shin splints or arthritis of the midfoot. Needless to say, this ankle flexibility loss is not something that should be ignored.

Diagnosing And Treating Equinus

If you believe that you or someone you know may be suffering from equinus, connect with a foot and ankle specialist in your area. During your evaluation, your specialist will conduct a physical exam and perform some range of motion exercises to see how your ankle joint responds to movement. Oftentimes the condition can be diagnosed through this physical exam, but they may also order an MRI to get a better picture of the ankle joint.

Treatment will vary based on the underlying causes, but in many cases patients find relief through a combination of non-operative treatments. Some of the most common treatments include:

  • Splints – Splints worn at night can help to reduce calf or Achilles tendon tightness
  • Arch Supports – Custom orthotic devices can help ensure pressure is dispersed evenly across your foot.
  • Physical Therapy – PT can help to relax tight tissues.
  • Heel Lifts – Heel lifts are similar to arch supports in that they help to take strain off your calf muscles or Achilles tendon while you’re walking.

It’s very rare to need surgery in order to correct equinus, but if you fail to find relief through the above methods and your surgeon believes that the calf or Achilles issue can be corrected with a minimally invasive procedure, they may recommend surgery. Your doctor can walk you through this procedure should it come to this point, but most patients experience pain relief through the above non-operative techniques.

For more information about equinus or the best ways to treat a foot issue, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team today at (860) 244-8889.

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