Extensor Tendon Injuries of the Foot

Extensor Tendon Injuries of the Foot: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Table of Contents

Extensor tendon injuries of the foot result from overuse or trauma, leading patients to experience swelling, pain, and difficulty walking. This problem mostly affects runners, and it can impact their lifestyle and range of motion. However, physical therapy, immobilization, and surgical procedures can be used in the recovery process. In fact, the injury can fully heal, but it needs to be addressed on time.

What Is Extensor Tendinitis?

Extensor tendinitis or tendonitis is a condition that impacts the tendon on the top of a person’s foot or the back of a hand. The phrase ‘tendinitis’ is used to refer to irritation or inflammation that affects tendons. When extensor tendons are impacted, a person will experience pain or issues when lifting their toes or their fingers.

The condition is caused by repetitive activity and motions that irritate and put extra weight and pressure on the tendons. Over time the tendons get inflamed and start to hurt. You can contribute to developing tendonitis by wearing ill-fitting footwear while running or being physically active. 

As soon as you notice seed corn or an irritating wart on the bottom of the foot due to the footwear, start wearing more comfortable shoes. This can help you prevent tendinitis from becoming a serious issue.

A person running
Extensor tendonitis can occur in both hands and feet

Who Is Affected by It?

Athletes, musicians, and manual workers are most likely to develop extensor tendonitis. They engage almost daily in strenuous activities that involve standing, walking, and running for long periods. However, some people are more susceptible to tendinitis due to improper physical activity or their age and additional health conditions. In case someone suffers trauma at some point in their life, the condition can develop as a result.

How Common Is It?

Actually, extensor tendinitis is a common condition, but many cases are unreported or undiagnosed. It is known that athletes and individuals who engage in sports as a hobby are susceptible to conditions, and they have problems with their tendons frequently. 

However, tendinitis develops over time, and sometimes, individuals succeed in alleviating the symptoms by avoiding physical activity. Therefore, many are left undiagnosed.

Man with a bandage on the foot
After a couple of days of rest, the symptoms of mild tendinitis would disappear

How Does Extensor Tendon Injury Affect Your Body?

Extensor tendons are responsible for extending or straightening the joints in the body, allowing you to open your hand, straighten your fingers, or raise your toes, among other actions. When these tendons are damaged, it can significantly impact your ability to perform these movements and affect your overall function. Here are some ways in which an extensor tendon injury can affect your body:

  1. Loss of movement: The primary function of the extensor tendons is to extend the joints. When an extensor tendon is injured, it can result in a loss of movement in the affected joint. For example, if you injure the extensor tendon in your hand or fingers, you may find it difficult or impossible to fully extend or straighten your fingers.
  2. Weakness: Tendon injuries can lead to weakness in the affected area. This weakness can make it challenging to perform tasks that require a strong grip or require you to lift or hold objects.
  3. Pain and swelling: Tendon injuries are often accompanied by pain, swelling, and inflammation. These symptoms can make it uncomfortable to move the affected joint and may require pain management strategies.
  4. Difficulty with daily activities: Since extensor tendons are involved in many everyday activities, an injury can interfere with your ability to perform simple tasks. For instance, if you injure the extensor tendons in your hand, you may have difficulty gripping objects, typing, writing, or even performing basic self-care tasks.
  5. Impaired dexterity and coordination: Extensor tendon injuries can affect dexterity and coordination. Tasks that require fine motor skills, such as buttoning a shirt or using utensils, may become challenging due to the limited range of motion and weakness caused by the injury.
  6. Stiffness and limited range of motion: In some cases, an untreated or poorly managed extensor tendon injury can lead to stiffness and limited range of motion in the affected joint. This can result in long-term mobility issues and difficulties with activities that require full joint movement.
  7. Tendon rupture: In severe cases or if the injury is not properly treated, the extensor tendon may rupture or tear completely. A complete tendon rupture usually requires surgical intervention to restore function.
A therapist massaging a foot
An injury to the extensor tendons always results in a reduced range of motion

What Are the Symptoms of Extensor Tendon Injury on the Foot?

An extensor tendon injury in the foot can cause a range of symptoms. Here are some common symptoms associated with an extensor tendon injury in the foot:

  1. Pain: Pain is a common symptom of an extensor tendon injury. You may experience pain in the top of the foot, particularly near the injured tendon. The pain may be sharp or throbbing, and it can worsen with movement or when you try to lift your toes or extend your foot.
  2. Swelling: Swelling is often present with an extensor tendon injury. The injured area may appear swollen, and you may notice redness or warmth around the affected tendon.
  3. Difficulty extending the toes: Extensor tendons in the foot are responsible for extending or lifting the toes, particularly the big toe. With an injury, you may find it challenging or impossible to fully extend your toes or raise the front part of your foot.
  4. Weakness: An injured extensor tendon can lead to weakness in the foot. You may have difficulty maintaining a strong push-off when walking or have trouble lifting your foot or toes against resistance.
  5. Stiffness and limited range of motion: In some cases, an extensor tendon injury can cause stiffness and limited range of motion in the foot. This can make it difficult to flex or extend the foot fully, impacting your gait and overall mobility.
  6. Tenderness: The injured area may be tender to the touch. Pressing on or around the affected tendon can elicit pain.
  7. Instability: Depending on the severity of the injury, you may experience instability in the foot. This can make it challenging to maintain balance and may affect your ability to walk or engage in physical activities.

How Is the Extensor Injury on the Foot Treated?

The first thing a person who has injured extensor tendons has to do is rest. The body itself is sending signals that it has crumbled under excess pressure and tension. Tendinitis and inflammation should be alleviated with ice packs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed for pain relief.

Furthermore, if the symptoms persist, physical therapy could be implemented. Learning strength exercises and stretches would be helpful during the healing process. Another option can be steroid injections; however, they should be used only when the injury is serious.

In some individuals, there has been a rupture or tear of the extensor tendon. When this happens, surgery needs to be performed by making an incision near the affected area and repairing the tissue.

How Long Does the Recovery Last?

The recovery depends on whether the treatment is effective. Of course, severe cases need to take their recovery period seriously and avoid putting stress on the foot for a few weeks. However, those individuals who have benefited from resting and stretching can get back to their regular activities in a couple of days.

It’s of utmost importance to follow the advice of a podiatrist and a physical therapist. However, try to listen to the subtle signs your body is sending and make sure that you are not pushing yourself to return to your lifestyle before the full healing occurs.

Talk to Your Doctor in Miami About the Extensor Tendon Injury on the Foot

Your tendinitis can be linked to overuse and strenuous, repetitive physical activity. However, an underlying foot deformity can contribute to the recurrence of the issue. Perhaps you are dealing with a hammertoe, bunion, or flat feet. An experienced podiatrist would be able to determine the exact cause. If you’d like to recover from extensor tendon injury as well as solve any foot deformities, contact us. We’d schedule an appointment during which you can ask any question about this condition. 

Apart from this, at Luxe Foot Surgery, you can undergo toe shortening, toe lengthening, bunion surgery, ankle surgery, and hammertoe surgery. All necessary procedures elevate the health of your feet.


How Do You Treat an Extensor Tendon Injury in the Foot?

Resting the foot and avoiding activities that may aggravate the injury are the first steps in treating an extensor tendon injury. Use ice on the affected area.

Physical therapy exercises can help stretch and strengthen the affected tendon, and arch-support footwear may be recommended. A doctor may recommend a brace or immobilization in some cases to allow the tendon to heal properly. In severe cases, surgery would help the most.

How Do I Know if My Extensor Tendon Is Torn in the Foot?

If the extensor tendon in your foot is torn, you may experience symptoms such as sudden pain, swelling, and bruising in the affected area. At the time of the injury, you may also experience difficulty moving your foot or toes, as well as a snapping sensation.

How Long Do Foot Extensor Tendons Take to Heal?

Minor injuries can usually be treated with rest, ice, compression, and physical therapy exercises, and they can heal in a matter of weeks. More severe injuries, such as partial or complete tears, may necessitate immobilization in the form of a cast or walking boot and can take months to heal.

What Does an Extensor Tendon Injury Feel Like?

It doesn’t have to be painful right away. You might experience weakness, stiffness, and difficulty walking at first. However, when the injury gradually becomes worse, the foot may start aching. Therefore, it’s essential to take time to recover completely.


  1. Healthline. (2021, May 5). Extensor Tendonitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/extensor-tendonitis
  2. Sports Injury Clinic. (n.d.). Extensor Tendonitis (Top of Foot Pain). Retrieved from https://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/foot/midfoot-pain/extensor-tendonitis
  3. WebMD. (n.d.). Extensor Tendonitis of the Foot. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-extensor-tendonitis-in-the-foot
  4. Cleveland Clinic. (2020, December 14). Extensor Tendinitis. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23126-extensor-tendinitis


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