What Is Equinus?
Equinus is a medical condition which is characterized by limited upward bending movement of the ankle joint. An individual with Equinus will find it difficult to bring the top part of the foot to the front part of the leg. A person can have Equinus in one or both feet; however the severity of the condition can vary from one foot to the other. People having Equinus find other ways to compensate for their limitation of ankle movement which sometimes causes other leg or back problems. The most common way of compensation is by flattening the arch and striking the heel first when walking, which puts undue amount of pressure on the ball of the foot whereas some people compensate for this limitation by toe walking.
What Causes Equinus?
There may be quite a few causes for development of Equinus. More often than not it is due to tight Achilles tendon or calf muscle. In some cases this tightness of the Achilles tendon may be congenital and at times it is inherited. Apart from these reasons, people who are put in a cast for a prolonged period of time or are on crutches for some other reason also tend to develop Equinus. Studies have shown that diabetics are more prone to have tight Achilles. Another cause of Equinus is some bone which obstructs the ankle from moving smoothly and normally. This is usually due to an injury to the ankle causing a fracture and the fracture fragment may obstruct smooth motion of the ankle. Leg length discrepancy is also one of the causes of Equinus. Sometimes, calf spasms which may indicate an underlying neurological disorder may also cause Equinus.
Equinus And Its Associated Foot Conditions
Below mentioned are some of the foot conditions or foot deformities which can arise due to Equinus:
Plantar Fasciitis: This is a medical condition which can be caused due to Equinus. This condition causes the heel to lift off the ground a bit early when walking and when it happens there is a sudden pull on the plantar fascia resulting in pain and inflammation at the site of its attachment to the bottom of the heel.
Stress Fracture: Equinus can also cause stress fracture as it tends to push the body weight forward putting undue pressure on the forefoot, which results in the bones getting weak ultimately ending up being fractured. This can also happen if the Plantar Fascitis developed due to Equinus is not treated appropriately.
Ankle Sprain: An individual with Equinus can be predisposed to frequent ankle sprains as due to this condition there is limited ankle motion and constant shift of body weight. When such an individual walks on an uneven surface he or she may fall and sprain the ankle.
Flat Feet: This is one of the conditions caused due to compensating for Equinus. This is done by lowering the arch of the foot and the foot appears to be flat. This process is also known by the name of pronation which causes internal twisting of the leg while walking.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: At times, Equinus also causes the nerves to get trapped below the ankle resulting in a medical condition known as tarsal tunnel syndrome. Once Equinus is treated, it helps improve this condition.
Hammertoes: Due to the pronation caused by Equinus, there is a sort of a twist in alignment between foot and leg. This causes the tendons stabilizing the toes to pull abnormally in such a way that the toes start to move out of its anatomical position and with time the toes become painful and stiff.
Hallux Rigidus: This is a medical condition in which there is degeneration of the joint where the great toe bends and attaches to the foot. Due to Equinus, there is a constant shift of bodyweight forward which increases the pain caused by Hallux Rigidus.
What Are The Symptoms Of Equinus?
Some of the symptoms of Equinus are:
- Limited ankle range of motion
- Achilles tendon tightness
- Ankle pain
- Foot Pain.
How Is Equinus Diagnosed?
Majority of the people do not even have the knowledge that they have Equinus as it mimics many other conditions and they go to a physician to take care of the pain associated with this condition and complaining of inability to move the ankle totally. They may also complain of problems which initially arise due to Equinus. In order to diagnose Equinus, the treating physician first conducts a physical examination of the affected foot. The physician tests the range of motion of the ankle by flexing the ankle and extending it. This gives the physician an idea as to whether a muscle or tendon is tight or is there a bone obstruction. An x-ray may also be ordered to confirm this diagnosis.
How Is Equinus Treated?
Below mentioned are some of the treatments for Equinus:
Comprehensive Stretching Program For Equinus: This is by far the most effective and frontline treatment for Equinus. This involves a comprehensive stretching program which the patient will have to do four to five times a day for a minimum of three months diligently for it to be most effective. This treatment does not involve any medications and hence there is no scope of any drug interactions. Once the patient is through with the stretching program then he or she will have to do stretches as and when performing any sort of exercise to prevent recurrence.
Night Splints To Treat Equinus: Trials have suggested that Night Splints have been effective in treating plantar fasciitis which is caused due to Equinus. The night splints are generally worn at the end of the day when relaxing and not doing any activity which involves motion. The splints are worn for about an hour each day. These splints help to stretch the Achilles tendon and calf muscles and make them loose.
ProStretch For Equinus: This is a device which is used in people with severe Equinus like athletes and people who are involved in high levels of activity.
Surgery For Equinus: This is an option reserved only for severe cases of Equinus which are not relieved by the above mentioned options. The procedure done is calf or tendon lengthening to treat Equinus.