The flexor digitorum longus is a long, thin muscle found in the lower half of the leg. The movements produced by the flexor digitorum longus include plantar flexion, or pointing your toes; inversion of the foot, or tilting the sole of your foot inwards; and flexion of the toes, helping you grip the ground as you run or walk.
Injuries to the flexor digitorum longus muscle can produce pain in the bottom of the foot, including the toes, ball of the foot and/or the arch. The pain may also reach and extend up into the heel and back of the lower leg. Other symptoms associated with the flexor digitorum longus muscle injury include:
- Pain in the foot while walking
- Radiating pain extending from the bottom of the foot up into the back of the leg
- Pain in the ball of the foot which extends into the four small toes
- Foot cramping
- Potential development of conditions including hammer toe and claw toe
Activities that may produce these symptoms include:
- Ill-fitting shoes
- Poor choice of footwear, such as thongs
- Walking/running on soft sand
- Walking/running on uneven ground
- Pain after a trip or fall where your feet are unable to grip the uneven surface
If you do suspect a flexor digitorum longus muscle injury a soft tissue occupational therapist may be able to help you get flexor digitorum longus muscle pain relief.
A visit to a Soft Tissue Occupational Therapist can assist in the treatment of your flexor digitorum longus muscle pain. A soft tissue occupational therapist will conduct an assessment to determine the cause of the pain and then provide hands-on neuromuscular techniques, such as trigger point therapy, dry needling or myofascial release to improve functioning of the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. These neuromuscular techniques work to break down fibrous adhesions, releasing tight muscles and correcting improper muscle functioning. Soft tissue occupational therapists will also work to develop and recommend stretching and strengthening regimes to assist in alleviating symptoms and prevent recurring of your flexor digitorum longus muscle pain. An occupational therapist will look to explore lifestyle factors, such as occupational participation and gait during activities, which may be contributing to your flexor digitorum longus muscle pain. They will then set up an personalized treatment plan that aims to reduce your symptoms. A soft tissue occupational therapist may employ or recommend a number of treatment techniques to help relieve your flexor digitorum longus muscle pain, these may include:
Trigger Point Release
Trigger point therapy involves the application of firm pressure to a hyperirritable spot or taut band, known as a trigger point. This pressure works to release tension in the muscle, by decreasing the blood flow to the area, and decrease the pressure felt. As the pressure is removed, blood flows back to the area and flushes any toxins released by the muscle. These points and can often refer pain to other parts of the body, lasting a few seconds.
Dry needling is a technique that can be used to reduce muscle restriction by releasing trigger points (see above) with acupuncture needles. A Soft tissue Occupational Therapist will use individually packed sterilised acupuncture needles to directly ‘needle’ the trigger point and produce a local response within the muscle, which then quickly dissipates and allows the muscle to relax.
Myofascial release is a manipulative treatment that attempts to release tension in the fascia due to trauma, posture, or inflammation. Connective tissues called fascia surround the muscles, bones, nerves, and organs of the body. Points of restriction in the fascia can place a great deal of pressure on nerves and muscles causing chronic pain. A soft tissue occupational therapist will employ long stretching strokes meant to balance tissue and muscle mechanics and improve joint range of motion in order to relieve pain.
Applying heat to your painful flexor digitorum longus muscles through the use of a heat pack may help to alleviate the pain. Heat is an inexpensive, effective form of pain relief that works by increases blood flow to the area, relaxing muscles and increasing range of movement and flexibility. By increasing the circulation and blood flow throughout the area, injury healing properties are delivered to the muscles, aiding in repair, and reducing the symptoms of flexor digitorum longus muscle pain. Alternatively, you can apply topical balms, such as Tiger balm or Eagle balm to help to relieve flexor digitorum longus muscle pain. Tiger balm and Eagle balm work to heat the muscles due to to high concentrations of menthol, an active ingredient that soothes muscles.
Stretching and Strengthening
Gentle stretching will assist in relieving your flexor digitorum longus muscle pain and can help speed up your recovery. Gentle stretching will work to encourage circulation and blood flow to tissues, reducing muscle stiffness and spasm. A Soft Tissue Occupational Therapist may recommend a stretching and strengthening regime, which you will be able to do at home. Strengthening exercises for the flexor digitorum longus muscle pain might include:
Sit in a chair and place a small towel on the floor in front of your foot. Scrunch the towel under your toes, pulling it in toward you. Repeat until you reach the end of the towel, spread it back out and repeat two to three times with each foot.
Sit in a chair and place a handful of marbles on the floor in front of you. With a bare foot, pick up one marble with your toes. Collect the marbles in a bowl or move them from one spot to another. Perform this exercise for two to three minutes with each foot.
Sit with your legs out in front of you with bare feet. Draw the alphabet in the air, leading with your toes. Repeat two to three times with each foot, then switch sides.
Standing Calf Raises
Stand on a flat surface next to a stable object or wall to maintain your balance. Raise up on your toes and hold this position for three seconds. Perform 10 repetitions and work up to three sets in a row. Advance this exercise by performing calf raises standing on only one leg.
As with any stretching or strengthening regime, it is best to consult your Soft Tissue Occupational Therapist before engaging in this program to obtain the proper diagnosis and avoid further aggravating your flexor digitorum longus muscle pain.
At Infused Health our highly trained Soft Tissue Occupational Therapists will use a hands on approach to help treat your injuries, conditions or any concerns you may have. You can make an appointment today by calling 0401 876 623.