A peroneal tendon injury is a problem with the tendons and muscles on the outer side of your lower leg and foot. Tendons are strong bands of tissue that attach muscle to bone. The peroneal tendons help keep your foot and ankle stable when you walk.
Tendons can be injured suddenly or they may be slowly damaged over time. You can have tiny or partial tears in your tendon. If you have a complete tear of your tendon, it is called a rupture. Other tendon injuries may be called a strain, tendinosis, or tendonitis.
What is the cause?
Peroneal injuries can be caused by:
Overuse of the tendon from a sport or work activity that causes your foot and ankle to roll inward, like when you run on sloped surfaces or run in shoes that are getting worn out on the outside of the heel.
A sudden activity that forces your foot upward toward your shin, like landing on your feet after a fall, or rolling your ankle on a rock while running.
What are the symptoms?
You may hear a pop or a snap when the injury happens. You may have pain and swelling on the outer side of your lower leg or ankle.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history. You may have X-rays or other scans.
How is it treated?
While you are recovering from your injury, you will need to change your sport or activity to one that will not make your condition worse. For example, you may need to swim instead of run. The pain often gets better within a few weeks with self-care, but some injuries may take several months or longer to heal.
Your healthcare provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal.
Use an elastic bandage or an ankle brace as directed by your provider. If you have a severe injury, your healthcare provider may put your leg in a cast or boot for several weeks to keep it from moving while it heals. You may need to use crutches until you can walk without pain.
If you keep having pain, your provider may give you a shot of a steroid medicine. If these treatments don’t work, you may need surgery to relieve the pain.
How can I take care of myself?
To help relieve swelling and pain:
Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth, on the area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
Do ice massage. To do this, first freeze water in a Styrofoam cup, then peel the top of the cup away to expose the ice. Hold the bottom of the cup and rub the ice over your tendon for 5 to 10 minutes. Do this several times a day while you have pain.
Keep your ankle up on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take these medicines for more than 10 days.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age.
Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Unless recommended by your provider, don’t take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. To make sure you donâ€™t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.
Moist heat may help relax your muscles and make it easier to move your leg. Put moist heat on the injured area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time before you do warm-up and stretching exercises. Moist heat includes heat patches or moist heating pads that you can purchase at most drugstores, a wet washcloth or towel that has been heated in the dryer, or a hot shower. Donâ€™t use heat if you have swelling.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
How long it will take to recover
If there are activities you should avoid, including how much you can lift, and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
How can I help prevent a peroneal tendon injury?
Warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries. For example, do exercises that keep your ankles and leg muscles strong. If your leg or ankle hurts after exercise, putting ice on it may help keep it from getting injured.
Follow safety rules and use any protective equipment recommended for your work or sport. For example, wear high-top athletic shoes or a supportive ankle brace. When you run, choose level surfaces and avoid rocks or holes.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-10-21 Last reviewed: 2014-10-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Peroneal Tendon Injury: References
DeLee, Jesse C., David Drez, and Mark D. Miller, Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice, Saunders; 4th ed. 2014.
Greene, Walter B., M.D., Griffin, Letha Y. (Ed), Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed. Amer Academy of Orthopaedic. 2010.
Kisner, Carol, and Lynn Colby, Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques, F. A. Davis Company; 6th ed, 2012.