What is Flexor Hallucis Longus Muscle and What is its Function?[1-2]
The Flexor Hallucis Longus Muscle belongs to a group of the deep muscles which are present in lower back area of the legs. To be precise, this muscle covers a part of the calf and is one of the strongest muscles of the legs. The Flexor Hallucis Longus Muscle stems from about the midportion of the fibula which is also called as the calf bone and traverses down the calf to the side of the ankle and goes into the foot. This muscle goes all the way down into the tip of the large toe. This muscle is innervated by the tibial nerve. The main function of Flexor Hallucis Longus muscle is to facilitate flexion of the big toe. It also allows the ankle to point downwards. This downward motion of the ankle is medically termed as plantar flexion of the foot. Flexor Hallucis Longus also facilitates movement of the foot. As some part of this muscle is present in the calf hence Flexor Hallucis Longus become vulnerable to pain caused due to injuries and strains, especially sportsmen involved in sprinting or running which puts excess pressure on the calf. Long jumpers and high jumpers are also at risk of suffering from Flexor Hallucis Longus pain due to injuring or straining this muscle. Treatment for Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain due to injury or strain is usually conservative in the form of rest, icing, foot and ankle wraps, calf supports and antiinflammatory medications.
Signs and Symptoms of Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain Due to Strain or Injury
Some of the symptoms of strain or injury to the Flexor Hallucis Longus Muscle are severe pain felt with any type running or sprinting activities. The athlete will also find it difficult to extend the big toe and will have pain. Flexion will also be difficult and induce pain in the foot. Ambulation will also be difficult due to a strained Flexor Hallucis Longus Muscle.
What Can Cause Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain?
As stated, due to the location of this muscle the root cause of a strain or injury causing Flexor Hallucis Longus pain is overuse and overexertion of the muscle which is the case in runners, sprinters, dancers etc. As there is excess pressure put on the Flexor Hallucis Longus Muscle, the tendons get inflamed resulting in tendonitis with pain felt behind the leg in the area of the calf and the midportion of the foot. Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain is also felt on the inside half of the ankle as well thus making ambulation difficult. If the athlete uses improper footwear while training then it puts that much more pressure on the muscle and tendons making the Flexor Hallucis Longus prone to injuries and pain.
What is the Treatment for Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain?
Cold Therapy for Treating Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain: There are many forms of gels and cold packs available in the market and over the counter which can go a long way in treating Flexor Hallucis Longus pain caused due to injury or strain. The gels that are available are normally used immediately after an injury or strain as it immediately cools the area and prevents swelling from developing in the area. For optimal results, the gel should be applied behind the calf and the inside part of the ankle.
Calf and Ankle Wraps to Treat Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain: There are numerous forms of calf and ankle supports available in the market which can be used for an injury or strain to the Flexor Hallucis Longus Muscle. These wraps are made of material which are quite comfortable and the athlete does not feel any discomfort while wearing them and train normally even with wearing the wraps. These wraps tend to reduce swelling and inflammation associated with Flexor Hallucis Longus pain caused due to injury or strain and should be worn until the inflammation calms down before parting with it.
Footwear: Appropriate footwear is also an important aspect in treating strained or injured Flexor Hallucis Longus Muscle.
Exercises for Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain: Stretching the Flexor Hallucis Longus muscle once the inflammation has healed is an important aspect of treating Flexor Hallucis Longus pain. Stretching exercises should be done after the swelling and inflammation has calmed down. Stretching should then be followed by strengthening exercises to regain the loss of strength due to injury or strain of the Flexor Hallucis Longus Muscle. Below mentioned are some of the exercises that help recover from Flexor Hallucis Longus pain due to strain or injury. It is also recommended that the patient see a physical therapist before starting these exercises for optimum results. It is advised that these exercises be done at least two to three times a day provided they do not increase pain symptoms.
Upward and Downward Movement of the Foot and Ankle Exercise for Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain:
In this exercise, the patient needs to move the foot and ankle upward as much as possible and then downwards as much as possible without any increase in symptoms. Try and do this maneuver about 10-15 times two to three times a day.
Sideways Movement Exercise of the Foot and Ankle for Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain:
In this exercise, the patient needs to move the foot and ankle first towards the right as far as possible and then towards the left as far as possible without any substantial increase in pain. Try and do this maneuver about 15 times. This exercise needs to be done at least three times a day.
Lunge Stretches for Flexor Hallucis Longus Pain:
To do this exercise, the patient needs to place the hands against a wall. Now, the patient needs to place the affected leg in front in a position taken before starting a sprint. Now, slowly move the knee forwards over the toes as far as possible without any increase in the pain. Hold this position for about five seconds and try and repeat this about 10 times such that a mild stretch is observed without any increase in the symptoms.