Peroneal Tendon Dislocation: Explaining Ankle Pain And Treatment Options
You followed your daily exercise routine the same way you always do when a sudden snapping sound – combined with a sharp pain – interrupted you. Next thing you know, your ankle is swelling up, and they tell you've just experienced peroneal tendon dislocation.
What can you expect from the entire recovery process?
Today I’m going to talk about all the whys and hows of peroneal tendon dislocation, in hopes of helping you figure out the best course of action after you’ve injured your ankle.
If you’re interested in learning more about it, keep on reading!
What Is Peroneal Tendon Dislocation?
As the name already suggests, peroneal tendon dislocation occurs when one (or, more likely, both) peroneal tendons find a way to slide out of the groove behind your fibula. That usually happens as a result of a traumatic event (various sports-related injuries), but more on that later.
But how do tendons get displaced in the first place?
That question brings me to my next point, which is the role of the peroneal retinaculum.
The firm connective tissue, called the peroneal retinaculum, is what keeps everything in place. However, if you're not careful, you may injure this connective tissue to the point of tearing. Once a tear occurs, there just won't be much left to hold the peroneal tendons in place.
They'll find their way over the bony prominence of the external part of your ankle, and you'll be left with a painful injury called peroneal tendon dislocation.
Peroneal Tendon Dislocation: Causes And Symptoms Of This Ankle Injury
If you’re wondering what might have caused you to dislocate your peroneal tendon, and what you can expect symptoms-wise, you’re at the right place. The following section with deal with the causes of peroneal tendon dislocation, as well as the most common symptoms you may develop.
The first thing you need to know is that this type of ankle injury usually happens during weight bearing. The combination of the excessive inversion of the foot, while the knee is moving forward (over the toes) could result in peroneal tendon dislocation.
Is that the way you've dislocated your peroneal tendon?
If not, several other activities could lead to an injury like this, and all of them require rapid direction changes. Let's name a few:
And while these activities do put you at a higher risk of peroneal tendon injury, the surface you're playing on is the real deciding factor. What I'm trying to say is:
Whenever you're playing sports (or exercising) on an uneven surface, you're risking an ankle sprain, which, in turn, could develop into a peroneal tendon dislocation. You may not know that, but these two injuries are commonly seen together, meaning one leads to the other.
But how do you know you didn't just sprain your ankle?
Trust me, you'll know; this is, by no means, a silent injury. As with many other tendon-related issues, you'll probably hear a loud snapping sound as it happens. It's never a pleasant experience to overhear your body make a noise like that, but at least you'll know what you got yourself into.
There are several symptoms you can expect, the most common ones being:
- Bruising of the injured area (the outer side of the ankle).
- The feeling of stiffness in – and around – the affected ankle.
- Swelling is one of the most common symptoms you may experience with peroneal tendon dislocation.
- Pronation of the affected foot becomes painful.
- You won't be able to bear weight, meaning putting your pressure on your foot while you walk will probably result in pain and discomfort.
One of the tell-tale signs of peroneal tendon dislocation is the snapping sound that will occur at the exact moment of the injury. If you’ve heard it, there’s a high chance you’ve dislocated your peroneal tendon, in which case I highly recommended consulting a medical professional.
Recovery And Treatment Options For Peroneal Tendon Dislocation
Have you heard about the so-called RICE method? No, it doesn’t have anything to do with rice; it’s a combination of actions that could help you relieve pain and, if they’re implemented as soon as possible, maybe prevent swelling.
Let me break it down for you:
- Rest – Once the injury has occurred, you need to take a break from your usual daily activities, especially if you're a regular runner, like me. I can't stress enough how important it is to give your body time to heal (the same goes for Achilles tendonitis). At this point, your primary goal is to rest and to protect the injured leg from any further strains.
- Ice – When it comes to reducing swelling (or entirely preventing it), cold packs are your best friend. You should apply it for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. That’s particularly important during the first 72 hours after the injury has taken place. After that, if the swelling is gone, you should consider applying heat pack on the affected area.
- Compression – You’re going to need an elastic bandage for this one. Compression is another excellent method for reducing swelling. However, be careful not to wrap it up too tightly, because that’s counter-productive, and may result in swelling below the injured area.
- Elevation – Anytime you’re either sitting or lying down, make sure your leg is elevated; stacking up a couple of pillows should do the job. And by „elevated“ I mean at – or above – heart level.
Standard treatment for peroneal tendon dislocation is casting. After the initial medical assessment, doctors should be able to determine whether or not you need a cast. You should be prepared for that, as it is a huge possibility. The immobilization phase will usually last for up to six weeks.
Depending on the severity of the injury, your doctor may suggest surgery as a treatment option for peroneal tendon dislocation. If the healing process doesn't go as planned, or the peroneal retinaculum is damaged to the point of no return, open surgery might be the best course of treatment.
One of the most important questions – and one I found people are most interested in – would be:
How long does it take to recover from peroneal tendon dislocation?
There's no definitive answer to this question because it depends on the treatment regimen you're following. If you managed to avoid surgery, you could expect a 10-week recovery period.
As with any other injury, there are some potential complications you should keep your eye on during the recovery process. One of the main things to remember, especially if your course of treatment required surgical treatment is that infections are possible. They might be rare, but they do happen, so if you notice anything out of the ordinary, seek medical attention at once.
Other complications, such as the overall feeling of weakness or stiffness in the affected tendon, are also a possibility. To lessen the chances of any permanent damage, stick to the prescribed treatment plan to the letter, and, if possible, try to avoid re-injuring your peroneal tendon.
Peroneal Tendon Dislocation: Final Thoughts
As we're nearing the end of another article on foot-related injuries, I have to admit I'm glad I've decided to do this so-called „series." I feel like I may be helping a lot of fellow runners out there, which is making me unbelievably happy.
As far as peroneal tendon dislocation goes, I think I've managed to cover pretty much every aspect of the injury: causes, symptoms, as well as treatment options. Of course, if you feel like I've left something important out, feel free to leave a comment. And who knows, maybe I could learn a thing or two from you!