What is Equinus and how Should You Treat It?

Equinus can impact your life and wellbeing, but with the right treatment, you can remain active and healthy!

Equinus, commonly referred to as “club foot”, is a condition that affects the flexibility of a person’s ankle, limiting the ability to move the toes upward toward the knee. This inflexibility occurs in the short calf muscle and the ankle joint, and it can affect one or both feet.

When equinus is present, a person is likely to experience difficulty when walking, forcing them to compensate with a different foot and leg motion than what they are normally accustomed to. Thus, this motion can cause further complications, including calf cramping, tendonitis, ankle pain, shin splints, and arthritis.

How is equinus diagnosed?

In most cases, a patient is unaware that they have equinus until they experience pain and visit a doctor for relief. The doctor, sometimes a foot and ankle expert, will test the flexibility and range of motion in the ankle. These tests will be performed when the knee is bent, as well as when the leg is extended. If further information is needed, the doctor may recommend X-rays or even neurological tests to assess the nerves and motor system in the foot.

By diagnosing the issue using a variety of techniques, a doctor can determine whether the muscle is tight, if abnormal bone structure is limiting the ankle’s range of motion, or if nerve damage is causing an inability to flex the ankle voluntarily.

What causes the condition?

While equinus is, essentially, tightness in the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, there are numerous causes for the condition. Causes can be congenital, meaning they were present at birth, but they can also be acquired during a person’s lifetime. 

A person could be born with a shorter calf muscle, causing the foot to be less flexible. The problem could also be caused through complications from diabetes.

Equinus can also occur when a person is in a leg or foot cast for an extended period of time. This lengthy period of disuse Due to the lengthy period of disuse, casts have the potential to trigger numerous problems associated with leg and ankle flexibility.

Available treatments for equinus

Much like the causes of the condition, the treatments can be diverse and expansive. Oftentimes, a patient will go through multiple treatment strategies to enhance flexibility while maintaining leg and ankle strength. 

Calf stretching programs are a simple and effective way to relieve equinus pain. This type of treatment is convenient and requires no drugs or special equipment, making it a popular starting point for treatment plans.

Adjustments to footwear, including arch support, heel lifts, and custom orthotics can also relieve the pain and increase flexibility. If needed, a doctor may recommend night splints to keep the leg in a position that enhances flexibility.

In rare cases, surgery for equinus may be required. This is usually for cases when a tendon or bone is impeding full ankle motion, and is usually the result of a major injury to the leg, ankle, or foot. In other instances, surgery may be needed to lengthen the calf or tendons, but this is reserved for very severe cases.

Get caring, respectful treatment for your foot and ankle conditions

Whether you are dealing with ankle pain caused by equinus, need custom orthotics, or have other questions and concerns relating to podiatric health, Dr. Nina L. Coletta can help. Contact our office today and put our experience, care, and knowledge to work for you!

Nina L. Coletta, DPM, PA

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