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Extensor Tendonitis – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What Is Extensor Tendonitis?

Extensor Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendons that are found just below the skin of the hand and the top of the feet. They are what connect the muscles to the bones (so that you can move). In the hands, they help to straighten out the fingers and thumbs while the feet are connected to the toes and the muscles in the front of the legs. There are many different factors that can be at play when diagnosed, so finding the right reasoning is imperative to receiving treatment.


Extensor tendonitis is generally caused by overuse, that is the basis for tendonitis. Some of the most common causes for extensor tendonitis in the feet are:

  • Spending extended periods of time on your feet on a regular basis
  • Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly
  • Using footwear that is not suited to the activity you are taking part in

As you can see those are from overuse and incorrect use of support for the feet. It’s the same for the hands with some of the most common as follows:

  • Extended periods of typing with a non-ergonomic keyboard
  • If you are a musician, playing for extended periods of time utilizing the same motions
  • Playing sports on a regular basis that affect the hands and wrists

One of the more common signs of tendonitis in the hands in called “mallet finger” which occurs when the tip of the finger no longer straightens correctly due to an injury to the top tendon. If not treated, it could permanently become stuck that way.


When it comes to extensor tendonitis in the feet, symptoms include pain on the top of the foot which is aggravated by use and relieved with rest. The pain will generally increase over time, with more and more use and could be accompanied with some swelling at the top of the foot. Another symptom could be felt when curling the toes. The stretching of the tendons could cause pain. A medical professional can determine this by doing a resisted dorsiflexion assessment where they attempt to flex the foot while the doctor resists it. If there is pain, the tendons are likely involved.

Some of the common symptoms of extensor tendonitis in the hand could be stiffness in the hands and fingers as well as the wrists. Numbness and tingling could be associated with it as well. If you take time off and it starts to feel better generally, this is an indication that this is what you are dealing with.


Treatment involves rest and depending on the activity this may mean taking time off work to give the tendons a break. If there is swelling you can incorporate icing to the area and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help with the pain and swelling.

Additionally, stretching and strengthening the area to regain its normal mobility and range of motion is recommended. For the feet, calf stretches (which seems counterintuitive) can be performed but a tight calf can place more strain on the tendons at the top of your foot.


In order to recover it is advisable to follow the advice of professionals and give the injury time to heal. The time for complete recovery depends solely on the severity of the condition and how well the patient responds to it and follows the protocol. If the tendons in the hands can be rested fully for a few days without overuse then stretching and strengthening exercises can start in about a week.

For the feet, there may be several weeks ahead in which normal activities such as running should be put on hold. The advice of the medical professionals should be a guideline to when you can start normal activities or therapy, but if you do try to do an activity and it is accompanied by pain and inflammation, stop what you are doing to prevent further injury and follow up with the professionals.

Adnan Munye

A certified personal trainer, Adnan specialises in weight loss, muscle building, body conditioning, core strengthening and injury rehabilitation. Adnan comes from a sporting background, where he has played football, badminton, rugby, and swimming all at various levels.

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