What is a Retinaculum?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
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A retinaculum is a term given to the structure responsible for holding a tissue or organ in its proper location. There are several of these structures found within the human body. The term retinaculum is also used to describe a medical instrument used during surgery to retract various tissues during the operation.

The superior extensor retinaculum located in the foot is a thick band of a type of connective tissue known as crural fascia. This fascia travels from the malleolus, a bony structure found on the side of the ankle, to the front of the joint of the ankle. From there, it travels to the dorsum, which is located on the back of the foot.

On the front part of the leg, there is a thick fascia called the inferior extensor retinaculum. This fascia attaches itself to both of the major bones of the leg, the tibia and the fibula. This structure holds the extensor tendons in place.

The extensor retinaculum found in the hand is part of the connective tissue known as the antebrachial fascia. This fascia is located in the forearm and is attached to the bone in the arm known as the ulna. The retinaculum in this area of the body is situated over the extensor tendons.


There is a very strong band of connective tissue, or fascia, in the foot called the flexor retinaculum. This structure begins at the medial malleolus, which is a process found at the bottom of the tibia, helping to form the ankle. From there, it moves to the calcaneus, the bone that creates the heel of the foot. This retinaculum works to hold the surrounding tendons in place. It also serves to protect the tibial nerve.

Injury is possible to any retinaculum found in the body. The most common injuries relating to this structure are found in the foot in the form of painful sprains and fractures. Medical conditions such as gout or diabetes can also lead to pain in this area of the body.

Treatment is dependent upon the cause of the injury or damage. If a fracture is involved, a cast is often used, and resting the affected area is important, regardless of the cause of the pain. Over-the-counter or prescription medications are often helpful during the healing process as well. In severe cases of injury where more conservative methods of treatment have not been successful or are not viable options, surgery may be required.


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Post 3

My golden retriever tore his retinaculum once, and he had to have surgery on his hind leg. His love for fetching caused him to become careless.

He was running rapidly after a ball I threw when his left hind leg fell into a hole in the yard. It twisted, and he howled in pain. I could hear a popping sound when he tried to walk.

The vet had to suture his torn retinaculum. I couldn’t throw a ball for him for two whole months while he healed! He had a bandage and a splint to help him heal, as well as an anti-inflammatory and pain pills.

Post 2

I have injured my retinaculum several times before, but I just called it an ankle sprain. I had never heard of retinaculum until reading this.

I have these concrete steps in my carport leading to my door. They have rounded edges, and the steps themselves are not very wide.

On more than one occasion, my foot has slipped while going down these steps. I landed with my foot turned under, which made me fall down on my hands.

It hurts a lot for awhile, but in about an hour, I am able to walk normally again. At first, I wondered if maybe I had broken it, but the fact that I could still move it around made me think it was just a sprain.

Post 1

It is good that the human frame has such a strong retinaculum surrounding the ankles. I have often found it strange that something as small and sometimes delicate as a foot has to support the entire weight of the body.

It seems that because a foot is small in comparison to other body parts, it could be easily broken. The retinaculum helps guard against that by holding it in place.

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