What is extensor tendonitis?

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Extensor tendonitis involves the inflammation of the extensor tendons which runs throughout the top part of the foot and responsible for straightening the toes. The pain is usually felt along the top part of the foot.



The symptoms of extensor tendonitis usually include soreness on the upper part of the foot that is aggravated while running. The individual will feel pain once the tendons are stretched out by curling the toes and there might also be a certain degree of diffuse swelling over the top region of the foot.

Overview on extensor tendonitis

Extensor tendonitis
The symptoms of extensor tendonitis usually include soreness on the upper part of the foot that is aggravated while running.

Extensor tendonitis affects the tendons which pull the foot upwards. These include the tibialis anterior, extensor hallucis brevis, extensor hallucis longus and extensor digitorum longus muscles. When it comes to this condition, it involves the inflammation of the tendons.

This condition is usually caused by overuse. Ill-fitting shoes or those that are laced too tightly that causes pressure on the top part of the foot can lead to inflammation of the tendons. Changes in the training method, especially when running uphill or on a treadmill adds stress on the extensor tendons at the top part of the foot.

Running uphill will require the foot to be lifted slightly higher during every stride. As for running downhill, the muscles work in an unconventional manner which adds stress on the extensor tendons as well as running on slippery surfaces or ice.


The individual should rest until the pain is gone. To learn to recognize and manage tendon injuries, enroll in a class on first aid today.  Continuing to train even if the foot is sore will only worsen the injury and delay the healing process. Once it becomes chronic or the tendon deteriorates, the healing will take a longer time.

Apply an ice pack for 10 minutes every hour initially and reduce the frequency as needed over the next 48 hours. The ice should be wrapped in a moist towel or simply use a reusable ice pack. Do not apply the ice pack directly on the skin since it might lead to further injury.

Once the initial sore acute stage has passed, you can apply heat for a beneficial effect. Always make sure that the footwear used is appropriate and laced shoes should not be tied tightly. Over tightening the laces will only place additional pressure over the extensor tendons in the foot. It is recommended to try out a different lacing pattern. Remember that running shoes are typically good for 400 miles of running and must be replaced with a new pair.

Once all the pain has diminished, a full rehabilitation program can be started in order to strengthen the extensor muscles. A sports injury professional can advise on the appropriate exercises to strengthen the extensor muscles.

When to consult a doctor?

The doctor will assess the injury and confirm the diagnosis by ruling out the possibility of a metatarsal stress fracture. Oftentimes, pain during passive stretching indicates tendonitis. On the other hand, if there is pain when the toes are pulled outwards, it might indicate a stress fracture.

The doctor will prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen but should not be taken by those who have asthma. If it is a long-term issue, a steroid injection might be administered but repeated injections to the tendons can lead to the weakening of the tendon. In severe cases, surgery might be performed as the last option.

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