dr. thomas mcdonald foot and ankle specialist

Understanding And Treating Tenosynovitis

Tenosynovitis is a condition that involves inflammation to the protective sheath that surrounds tendons in your body. Tendons are cords that connect muscle to bone, and the tissue that surrounds these tendons is known as the synovial membrane. This protective tissue is full of fluid that lubricates the tendons and aids in smooth movement. When tenosynovitis sets in, this inflammation can lead to localized discomfort and cause problems for your tendon. Below, we take a closer look at tenosynovitis when it develops in the foot and ankle region.

The Basics Of Tenosynovitis

Tenosynovitis and tendonitis are two conditions that commonly affect the Achilles tendon, but it’s important to remember that they are two distinct conditions despite the fact that they both involve inflammation. Tendonitis is the more common of the two conditions, and it occurs when the tendon itself becomes inflamed. As we mentioned in the introduction, tenosynovitis occurs when the tendon’s synovial membrane becomes inflamed.

Tenosynovitis can develop for a number of different reasons, but the most common cause is typically the result of overuse. If you put too much strain on your Achilles or peroneal tendons in your ankles, the tendon sheath can become inflamed. Aside from overuse, tenosynovitis can develop after an injury or as a complication from another underlying issue, like diabetes or gout.

Common symptoms of tenosynovitis include:

  • Localized pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Difficulty moving your feet without discomfort
  • Redness or discoloration of the skin above the affected area
  • Decreased flexibility or range of motion

Diagnosing And Treating Tenosynovitis

If you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms, consider setting up an appointment with your primary care physician or a foot specialist. They’ll begin by asking about your symptoms, reviewing your medical history and conducting a physical exam. From there, they may confirm their suspicions with a blood test or imaging test to check for the presence of an infection or to visualize the tendon sheath and the soft tissues in the area.

If tenosynovitis is suspected, your doctor will walk you through your treatment options. Tenosynovitis oftentimes resolves with the help of some simple conservative techniques, but it’s unlikely to go away on its own without attacking the problem head on, so don’t just keep going on with your day as if nothing is wrong. The most common treatment techniques for tenosynovitis include short-term rest or activity avoidance, bracing/splinting to reduce stress on the area, heat and ice therapy and physical therapy to strengthen structures in the area. More hands-on care may involve a corticosteroid injection to help resolve inflammation, and that would be paired with the previously listed conservative treatments for the best results.

Surgery is typically only needed in the event that your tenosynovitis is caused by an infection that could cause permanent damage. In these instances, the surgeon will carefully work to debride the area and remove the infection so that the tendon inflammation and other issues being caused by the infection are resolved.

For more information about tenosynovitis or other conditions that affect your feet and ankles, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team today at (413) 261-6801.

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