What Is Ankle Tenosynovitis?
Ankle tenosynovitis is admittedly somewhat of a tongue twister, and not a particularly common term, so let's look at it more closely. Ankle is self explanatory, but what about tenosynovitis? "Teno-" is an abbreviation of tendon, the tendons in the ankle in this case, "synov-" refers to the synovial sheath or lining that surrounds a tendon, and the suffix "itis" is the medical term for inflammation. Ankle tenosynovitis therefore is an inflammation of the sheath surrounding an ankle tendon.
Ankle tenosynovitis is classified as one of several diseases which may affect a tendon, and the disease may result from injury, infection, strain, or overuse. Tenosynovitis can affect other tendons as well, with the tendons in the hands, wrists, and ankles being most commonly affected.
Ankle tenosynovitis is most prevalent among athletes, especially runners, who can incur the problem though overuse of the ankle's muscles and tendons. Overused muscles tend to complain by becoming sore, and if a tendon lining is subjected to undue use or motion, it can eventually become inflamed. When that happens, it can become quite painful. Just about the worst thing one can do when suffering from tenosynovitis is to try to work through the pain. It won't work, and will almost always make matters worse, to the extent that a person can even become temporarily incapacitated when an ankle is involved. When the tenosynovitis is due to overuse it's one thing, but if it's the result of an infection it can be far more serious, so it's important to recognize the symptoms of ankle tenosynovitis, which initially may appear to be nothing more than a slight muscle strain.
Tenosynovitis Symptoms - Among the usual symptoms is constant pain, with the pain increasing when moving the ankle, and diminishing somewhat, though usually never completely, when the ankle is at rest. As the condition worsens, the range of motion of the ankle may become limited, and the ankle may become swollen, warm, and redness may appear. Even if one does not suspect ankle tenosynovitis, the symptoms alone suggest something is wrong, and medical assistance or advice is therefore recommended.
Worst Case Scenarios - It's important to understand what the consequences could be if the condition were to remain untreated. As long as the ankle is subjected to a normal amount of movement, the condition is unlikely to clear up on its own, but will usually worsen. The pain experienced will usually prompt the affected person to seek medical help (sometimes pain is good). If the condition is left untreated or improperly treated the ankle tenosynovitis is apt to become chronic, and few people, given a choice, elect to put up with chronic pain, especially when standing or walking is involved.
In some cases the tendon may become torn and in extreme cases may rupture, leaving the individual immobile. In any event, if treatment is ignored until the tendon itself becomes damaged, the need for surgery becomes likely, and even surgery may not result in complete recovery.
Treatment - If caught early on, ankle tenosynovitis can almost always be treated successfully, and recovery can be complete. Initial treatment normally consists of rest and applications of ice packs to relieve the inflammation and any swelling. Anti inflammatory medications will usually be prescribed. A walking cast will usually not be needed, but a brace, one which can be removed during the nighttime hours, can often be very helpful. Recovery times can of course vary.
The best way to prevent ankle tenosynovitis is to do exercises which serve to strengthen the muscles in the ankle, thus taking unnecessary stresses away from the tendon. Doing those things that strengthen the ankle is also recommended following recovery from tenosynovitis, to help prevent a recurrence.