resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Pain Underfoot: Metatarsalgia
Foot pain can interfere significantly with normal activities and severely limit participation in sports. Metatarsalgia is foot pain involving the metatarsal bones in the forefoot – the complaint of pain on the bottom of the ball of the foot.
Waking Up the Gluteus Maximus
In previous articles in this series, we expounded on the importance of the gluteus maximus (GM) in athletic performance and protecting the knee from injury. We also know there is a link between iliotibial band syndrome and GM weakness.
A History Worth Telling
The popularity and the use of acupuncture for the treatment of animals in the United States is at its peak.
Peer Points: Always Seeking To Grow
Ellen "Kiki" Geary has spent the last decade honing her craft. As a specialist in integrative holistic care, she went straight from completing her master's degree in acupuncture and chinese herbal medicine from Bastyr University to building a successful and thriving practice in the small community of Anacortes, Washington.
Medical Qigong for the Heart: Part III
Part 1 and Part II of this series focused on the physical aspect of the Heart and mental emotional aspects of the Heart respectively. Now, I would like to focus on the spiritual aspect of the Heart.
MPA Media Wins 7 Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Dynamic Chiropractic and DC Practice Insights, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecedented seven publishing awards by the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
A Guide for Talking to Doctors about Acupuncture and Brain Chemistry
Before I begin any discussion of how to talk about the effects of acupuncture on brain chemistry, nervous and endocrine function, it is essential to understand just what physicians most need help with.
CCE Finally Takes a "Baby Step" Toward Reform
During a 16-month period from October 2010 to February 2012, I devoted four separate columns to the heavy-handed attempt by the Council on Chiropractic Education to radically change the chiropractic profession through the accreditation process.
Why Young People Need Chiropractic Now More Than Ever
According to a recent study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, "It is now widely acknowledged that neck pain (NP), mid back pain (MBP), and low back pain (LBP) (spinal pain) start early in life and that the lifetime prevalence increases rapidly during adolescence to reach adult levels at the age of 18."
Chiropractic Research in Review
Chiropractic Treatment of Lateral Epicondylitis; Cost / Benefit Analysis: Different Doses of SMT for Low Back Pain; Imaging for Occult Rib and Costal Cartilage Fractures; Treating Neck Pain: Thoracic Thrust Manipulation vs. Non-Thrust Mobilization.
Finders Keepers: The Secret to Relationship-Based Marketing
Becoming a successful practitioner has less to do with what you learned in school, and more to do with your ability to find new patients and keep them!
Don't Turn a 2 Into a 10
The Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale1 is so useful because it can be used by almost anyone. Patients can use the numbers associated with the faces depicted on the scale or select the face that demonstrates their current level of pain from 0-10.
9 Common Causes of Thyroid Imbalance and How You Can Help
How you sleep, how easily you wake up, and how much energy and stamina you have during the day are directly related to levels of the thyroid hormones.
New Medical Technologies You Need to Know
We're all familiar with how fast computers become obsolete, as well as the rapid pace of development in the field of cell phone technology. The latest smart phones are far more powerful than desktop computers were only a few years ago.
Building From the Bottom Up
I caught up with my dear friend Honora Wolfe, in her Colorado painting studio where, if she is not praying in Bhutan or doing charitable work in a Nepali free clinic, she spends most of her time now.
News in Brief
National Chiropractic Health Month: Be Proactive; Collegiate Roundup: Academic Appointments at Parker, Logan.
A Vibrating Capsule for Constipation? Relevance to Your Chiropractic Practice
The relationship between gastrointestinal (GI) complaints and back pain is not typically written about or discussed.
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.
Join the conversation
Comments are encouraged, but you must follow our User Agreementcomments powered by Disqus
Keep it civil and stay on topic. No profanity, vulgar, racist or hateful comments or personal attacks. Anyone who chooses to exercise poor judgement will be blocked. By posting your comment, you agree to allow MPA Media the right to republish your name and comment in additional MPA Media publications without any notification or payment.