resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it practice.
Talking to Patients About Medial Branch Neurotomy (Part 2)
Even when lumbar facet denervation (medial branch neurotomy) is successful, relief is rarely complete or permanent. Smuck, et al., reviewed 16 articles and found the average duration of >50 percent pain relief for an initial procedure was nine months.
Teach Your Patients About External Healing Applications
Since the skin is the body's largest organ, and is able to respond to both internal and external stimulations, communicate sensations to the brain, protect the body, breathe and even excrete toxins, it can be an excellent source of healing.
How Much Do You Know About the Benefits of Birds Nest?
Edible bird's nest is the nest made by the Swiftlet bird of Southeast Asia that is usually prepared as a soup and prized in Chinese culture as a healthful delicacy.
Make Every Day Mother's Day
May is a special month for many reasons. After a long, harsh winter, spring is at last in full swing. Memorial Day helps us honor those who have fought and fallen in the name of freedom.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
5 Tips for Using Pinterest to Market Your Practice
Pinterest is a very popular, but often under-utilized, social media platform where people can bookmark, or "pin," fun and interesting things from all across the internet.
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
If Your Pro-Chiropractic Governor Resigned, Would You Be Prepared?
John Kitzhaber, MD, recently re-elected to a historic fourth term as Oregon governor, has resigned among alleged ethics violations by his fiancée' and first lady, Cylvia Hayes. I developed a personal friendship with John and consider him a good friend.
Trouble in the Wellness Waters?
Call me old-fashioned, paranoid or just old, but I do remember graduating from chiropractic college in the late '70s in the midst of the Wilk v AMA lawsuit.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
Apple Takes a Bite Out of Research
The more than 700 million iPhone users have just been given the opportunity to "do their part to advance medical research."
Functional Impingement of the Hip (Part 2): Rehab Exercises
I find functionally impinged hips that don't move properly on so many of my patients. (See part 1 of this article for a description of the condition.)
News in Brief
Dr. Frank Nicchi Receives Award at ACC-RAC; Sherman College Expands International Influence.
January, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 01
Flexor Hallucis Longus Dysfunction
By Whitney Lowe, LMT
Soft-tissue foot pain is widespread, especially in active people. Problems such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, or tarsal tunnel syndrome are common causes of chronic pain and disability.However, another muscle in the foot should be considered when investigating medial ankle or plantar-surface foot pain. Disorders of the flexor hallucis longus (FHL) are routinely overlooked and may frequently be misdiagnosed as some of these other foot problems mentioned above.1
The proximal attachment of the FHL is on the distal 2/3 of the posterior fibula and the interosseous membrane. It is one of three muscles in the deep posterior compartment of the leg, and shares that compartment with the tibialis posterior and flexor digitorum longus (FDL). These muscles course together through the tarsal tunnel on the medial side of the ankle (Figure 1). The FHL's distal attachment is on the plantar surface of the hallux (great toe).
Along its path, the tendon must curve around the sustentaculum tali, a prominent bony landmark on the medial side of the foot (Figure 1). One common cause of FHL dysfunction is friction and irritation of the tendon at this site. The FHL tendon also passes between two sesamoid bones at the metatarso-phalangeal joint where the first metatarsal meets the hallux. Irritation of the tendon or its synovial sheath can also occur at this area.1
The FHL muscle is difficult to palpate along most of its length because it is so deep in the posterior compartment. It is easier to palpate around the medial malleolus near the tarsal tunnel. It is the most posterior of the three tendons that curve around the medial malleolus. When palpating in an anterior direction from the Achilles tendon on the medial side of the heel, it is the first tendon encountered (Figure 1). The tendon also becomes more prominent to palpation during resisted toe flexion.
In most cases of FHL dysfunction, normal anatomical structures are the root of the problem. However, anatomical anomalies can account for the same symptoms as well. These anomalies may not be identifiable without more detailed investigation such as MRI. For example, one author reported a case where there were persistent symptoms of FHL dysfunction that did not respond to conservative treatment. Upon surgical investigation, the patient was found to have an accessory FHL muscle that could account for the larger muscle mass and symptoms of irritation resulting from activity.2 This anomaly may not be as rare as it seems because it has appeared in other references as well.3-4
The most common problems with the FHL are tenosynovitis, muscle strains and tendinosis. These conditions often occur together due to constant friction or irritation of the muscle. As a result, the collection of these conditions is sometimes called flexor hallucis syndrome.1,5
Of these different pathologies, stenosing tenosynovitis is the most common. Stenosis means narrowing, and tenosynovitis is an inflammatory irritation between the tendon and its surrounding synovial sheath. Not all tendons are surrounded by a synovial sheath so tenosynovitis only occurs in certain tendons. Most tendons with a synovial sheath are found near the distal extremities as they pass under a binding retinaculum (Figure 1). In FHL dysfunction, stenosing tenosynovitis occurs at the tendon's narrow channel where it passes the posterior aspect of the talus and the sustentaculum tali. Repeated pressure against these surfaces causes irritation.
Stenosing tenosynovitis of the FHL is reported most commonly in ballet dancers, but also occasionally in runners.4,5 High levels of tensile stress are placed on the FHL when the dancer goes en pointe (Figure 2). In this position, there is a forceful plantar flexion as the entire weight of the body is being borne on the tips of the toes. The toes are held in flexion and the foot is in extreme plantar flexion. The strong tensile load on the FHL tendon may cause irritation when it is pressed against the sustentaculum tali.
A condition called hallux saltans may also develop as part of FHL overuse. Hallux saltans is the development of a nodule along the FHL tendon and/or its sheath. This nodule may produce a sort of popping effect of the hallux during contraction and elongation because the nodule drags across adjacent tissues. The popping sensation is the same process that occurs with trigger finger in the hand. This popping or triggering is accentuated by friction between the nodule and the flexor retinaculum that lies immediately superficial to the tendon (Figure 1).
Problems may occur with the FHL tendon on the plantar surface of the foot as well. Scar tissue from tendon irritation or plantar fasciitis may cause the tendons of the FHL and flexor digitorum longus (FDL) to adhere to each other (Figure 3). Adhesion between these structures is evident if there is a significant clawing of the other toes when the FHL is activated during attempted flexion of just the great toe.
In addition to problems with the tendon and the tendon sheath, the FHL is susceptible to overuse muscle strains near the distal musculotendinous junction. In the FHL, the distal musculotendinous junction is located just posterior to the medial malleolus. Strains in this region may be accentuated by friction forces of the muscle and tendon against the posterior aspect of the tarsal bones just before the tendon enters the tarsal tunnel.
Due to its anatomical arrangement, the FHL muscle is vulnerable to many overuse conditions. However, FHL dysfunction is not as common as other foot pathologies, so problems in this muscle-tendon unit are often misdiagnosed. All of these dysfunctions can benefit from soft-tissue treatment, so it is valuable for the massage practitioner to have a thorough understanding of this pathology, as well as how to evaluate and treat it. In a future issue, we'll explore how best to identify and treat FHL dysfunction.
Click here for more information about Whitney Lowe, LMT.
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