Do you have pain in the ankle area or a foot that doesn’t heal no matter what treatment the doctor orders? Chances are you may have an injured peroneal tendon.

Our bodies work tirelessly for us, without recognition, or award. The effort they put in each day goes largely unnoticed. One of our unsung heroes is the ankle. When it is is good health, it allows us to balance and walk and live as we please. However, in the event of sprain up to 40% of individuals will develop chronic pain, despite receiving medical care when first injured, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Understanding this integral body part better can help you care for your long term health and mobility.

What is the peroneal tendon? 

This tendon runs behind the visible portion of the ankle, the bone called the fibula.

A tear or rupture to this tendon is hard to find due its location behind the ankle bone. Clues to help identify it are general symptoms of swelling and tenderness, or because the tendon runs through the base of the foot, sometimes the pain travels beyond the ankle and into the heel and foot itself.

If the ankle does not heal as quickly as expected, medical imaging will be required to get a visual of what is happening. If the diagnosis is an injury to the peroneal tendon, rest and recuperation will be on the menu. For severe injuries a cast will be required to keep you from putting pressure on the ankle when it needs timeout to heal. Keeping the area iced and taking anti-inflammatory medication will help too. Later in the recovery process exercises and physiotherapy will aid the restoration of strength and mobility.

Unfortunately, the peroneal tendon will need surgery if the injury is not caught and treated in time. So, if your ankle is not getting any better, ask a trusted GP to take another look until you are satisfied you have the right diagnosis and you can feel that your ankle is on the way to recovery.

How does a peroneal tendon injury occur?
Apart from accidents like tripping over, the peroneal tendon is susceptible to changes in routine, just like other tendons throughout the body. For example, if you suddenly decide to run a marathon without putting in the training, your body is not likely to react well. The pain you feel after a hitting the pavements for the first time is a direct message from your peroneal tendon. It’s telling you slow down because it needs time to become accustomed to working in new ways. By taking a gradual approach to new exercises and increasing your athletic output slowly, your body has the chance to adapt to the new demands.  

Shoes play a massive role in providing the support our feet and ankles need. Wearing badly designed shoes or high heels on day that will require a lot of walking will not give your feet the stability they require, and increase your susceptibility to injury. Likewise, training or exercising in poor quality footwear can also lead to injuries. As much as possible, select a shoe that will help your body perform to its optimum ability.  

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If you notice that your ankle is rolling inwards or outward, investigate using orthotics. If the foot is not naturally taking a stable position, it needs a device to encourage the bones and muscles to adopt the strongest position. Without orthotics, pain and injuries will develop over the long term.

What exercises can I do to help the ankle heal?
Calf raises – this is a simple exercise that you can do anywhere. All you need to do is stand up straight and tall and then raise up onto the balls of your feet for a second – and then release. Increase the number of repeats and the length of time elevated to make the exercise more interesting over time. You will notice your calf definition improve as well.

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Wobble board – This exercise requires a higher degree of balance. Stand on the flat side of the wobble board with your feet on either side. Get the edge of the board to contact the floor then rotate in a circle, then swap directions.

Resistance bands – Sit on the floor with one leg stretched straight in front of you and the other comfortably crossed close to your body. Loop the resistance band around the middle of your foot and make sure it is taut. Then, with your toes pointing towards the ceiling, flex your foot forward and back. Do another round with your foot at 45 degrees and 135 degrees.