Sunday, September 9, 2012
Care of Posterior Tibialis Tendon Issues, Part One
"Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on."
We have to take good care of our feet to do what we do. Many have learned the hard way about Plantar Faciitis, metatarsal stress fractures, interdigital neuromas and the like through unplanned interaction with the medical community. I have always felt the more knowledgeable the athlete the better. The ones with problems who end up in my office who've already asked around or researched their concerns on the net seem to be in a better place to help me help them.
Athletes frequently complain of two types Posterior Tibial Tendon difficulties. The first is a slow, subtle deterioration process that actually tears or can even stretch the tendon leading to what's known as an acquired flat foot deformity. The tendon has slowly, over time, lengthened and can, in some cases, no longer do it's job in maintaining the longitudinal arch of the foot. In other instances, the tendon will actually rupture frequently leading to surgical repair. Those who seem to be at higher risk for this injury are the obese, diabetic, rheumatoid arthritics and those who may have had a steroid injection in the area.
I used this B&W image out of one of my old Anatomy texts as it shows only the business part of the PTT (labeled Tibialis Posterior) coursing behind the tibia and inserting on the navicular.
So, if you have pain over the inside of the ankle, get it checked out. Your doctor will examine the ankle looking for tenderness over the course of the tendon, swelling, weakness...and those with a real problem...a gap in the tendon. The doctor will check your muscle strength by asking you to stand on your toes or determine if there's an asymmetry in the longitudinal arch while weight bearing. Although this is usually a clinical diagnosis, an MRI may be required. In my office, although tendons are not normally seen on x-ray, a plain x-ray always precedes an MRI.
If a PTT problem is noted in the early stages, a supportive orthotic might be recommended or even a cast. I'm partial to casts. If, over time, the problem continues to worsen, then an operative procedure may be recommended to repair the tendon, occasionally using a nearby tendon as a graft. In the worst case scenario a fusion of the foot bones is done to restore the arch of the foot. As you might expect, rehab is considerable and even with appropriate treatment, one's triathlon future might be in jeopardy.
In other words, if you have a problem in this area, don't neglect it. Get it seen.
The next two blogs will delve further into this problem.