What is Equinus?

equinus footToday, I’m going to talk about a condition called equinus. Now, this is not a condition that is commonly known amongst the general public, however, this particular condition is experienced by many people and it has a definite effect on a number of other different foot conditions that can develop.

Equinus is a tightening of the tendon and the muscle structure to the heel in the back of the leg, which causes the foot to  bend downwards more than it really should as the muscles and the tendons pull a little bit more tightly up and force the heel bone upward and the ankle bends downward.

Now, this might not seem like much, but the problem with this condition … and it can also be a very subtle change, it doesn’t have to be a dramatic bending downward of the ankle, it could be much more subtle than that just by a few degrees … but the problem with this condition is that that will increase pressure to the ball of the foot as the foot is basically trying to function and go through the normal steps of walking and standing. If there’s too much pressure to the ball of the foot, there’s going to be various diseases and conditions that can develop as a result of that, because that pressure can influence all sorts of different things.

What other foot conditions can equinus worsen?

Conditions that can get worsened because of this equinus could be callouses and other pressure sores to the ball of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is another common foot condition that can develop from equinus. This is especially a problem in diabetics, and it can also include other conditions such as inflammation of the joints at the ball of the foot as well as neuromas or nerve inflammation at the ball of the foot. Just a few degrees of contraction of the ankle downward in this condition in equinus can potentially lead to a significant amount of problems further on up the foot at the ball of the foot.

How do you treat equinus?

Gastrocnemius muscleThis condition is something that’s fairly easy to treat. Essentially, what you have to do is you have to loosen up the muscles and the tendons in the back of the leg, particularly the Achilles tendon and the associated muscles, the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle, which supply the muscle to the tendon itself. By loosening that up and giving it a good stretch, you can sometimes reduce this equinus condition.

Now, not all equinus conditions can be improved by just simply stretching. Sometimes you have to use night braces to basically stretch the tissue at night while you sleep to give it a more consistent stretch, and other times, that’s not enough and you have to employ the help of a physical therapist to try to force this range of motion.

If that doesn’t work, another technique that needs to be employed to make sure that that tendon becomes much longer and the ankle becomes more functional, is to actually in surgically and either lengthen the tendon or lengthen the tissue that sits at the top of the tendon near the muscle to actually make that whole area function in a much longer manner and allow the ankle to be able to bend upward appropriately and stretch back that heel so that there’s less pressure to the ball of the foot.

Now, on occasion, this condition can also be due to a problem with bone structures blocking the ability of the ankle to bend upward, because there’s bone spurs or other types of situation at the ankle joint itself. Sometimes surgery is needed, if that’s the case, to remove some of those bone spurs along the ankle and allow the ankle joint to be able to bend upward properly to allow this foot to flex normally and decrease the pressure to the ball of the foot.

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