The human ankle is a complex joint that bears a lot of weight. It also serves as the primary connection between the lower leg and the foot. This means it is made up of a lot of complex structures, including ligaments, multiple bones, and connective tissues, as well as important muscles. Inflammation in the joints, sprains, injury, and arthritis are just a few of the common ankle problems that millions of Americans experience every year.
The following is a list of common ankle ailments, symptoms and possible treatment options. Some treatment strategies can be carried out at home, whereas others require the attention of a professional physician.
This is one of the most common ankle problems experienced by people of all ages. It can range from mild to severe. An ankle sprain occurs when the connective tissues and ligaments that stabilize the joint and bond the bones are compromised.
With a minor ankle sprain, it might simply be that a ligament or other connective tissue structure has been stretched, which also causes painful inflammation. In a more severe case, a ligament might be partially torn or completely torn away. The term “High Ankle Sprain” refers to an injury to the syndesmotic ligament, that connects the knee to the ankle.
Most minor to moderate ankle sprains will heal on their own with the basic Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation or RICE. A more severe ankle sprain that doesn’t respond to home care treatment will likely require professional treatment. Left untreated the compromised structure of the ankle joint and chronic inflammation can lead to arthritis.
Severe trauma to the ankle joint or the lower leg can potentially damage the ankle bone. In a case like this, you will likely experience significant pain that will not respond to RICE treatment. you might also notice deformity in the joint, severe swelling and bruising. In a severe case, the fractured section of ankle bone may protrude out of the skin as a compound fracture.
Regardless of severity, an ankle fracture needs timely professional treatment. Left untreated inflammations and complications from things like a bone hematoma can cause increasing pain, as well as prolong the eventual treatment process.
Depending on the severity, and the need for surgical intervention recovery from an ankle fracture may take up to 6 weeks. This will then be followed by 3 to 5 months of physical therapy.
Ankle Impingement Syndrome
This is sort of an umbrella term related to soft tissues and connective tissues that are compressed or pinched by bones in the foot or ankle. The swelling and discomfort that come along with an ankle impingement tend to limit the range of motion. While the individual might be able to walk with only a minor limp, long-term complications can occur from an untreated ankle impingement.
Minor ankle impingements can often be treated with sufficient rest and physical therapy exercises. Some individuals will benefit from a cortisone injection to help manage the buildup of inflammation. In a more severe case, a surgeon may need to remove a small amount of bone tissue to prevent it from pinching the soft tissues again.
A Stress Fractures In The Foot
As bipeds, the human foot takes an enormous amount of pressure in the course of a single day. Repetitive stress and the force of a hard fall or jumping down from a great height onto a hard surface can potentially fracture a bone in the foot. When this happens, the pain is often severe, and the compromised structural integrity of the foot affects the synergy of connective tissues in the ankle.
The most common foot bones for a stress fracture include:
- The Second Metatarsal
- The Third Metatarsal
- The base of the fifth metatarsal
- Sesamoid area of the Big Toe
The pain of a stress fracture in the foot is usually enough to drive the average person to seek treatment. From there your physician can help you understand the most effective treatment plan. In some cases, casting or keeping the affected foot in a stabilization boot might be sufficient. Though in a severe case surgical intervention might be needed to install a titanium plate and stabilize the fractured foot bones.
Here again, we have another somewhat common foot injury that affects the ankle. With Plantar Fasciitis a band of connective tissue in the arch of the foot develops inflammation. It’s often related to a partial or complete tear of the connective tissue. The most noticeable symptom is often a sharp pain in the foot.
Even individuals with a minor case of Plantar Fasciitis will often complain of pain when they take the first few steps after waking up in the morning or perhaps sitting for a long time. In a severe case, the pain and inflammation might simply be too much for the individual to even walk.
A minor case of Plantar Fasciitis can often be treated with RICE followed by some basic stretching exercises and over the counter anti-inflammatory medications. A more severe case may require surgical intervention.
A Case Of Achilles Tendonitis Or An Achilles Rupture
The Achilles tendon is the largest in the body. It connects the calf muscles to the bone in the heel and runs lengthwise down the back of the ankle. Since it is used so heavily in walking it is prone to inflammation and tendonitis. You’ll often notice this as discomfort when taking a step. Here again, RICE and physical therapy stretches can help reduce inflammation. If the problem persists, a physician will layout a treatment plan, which may require two to four weeks of physical therapy.
In the case of an Achilles rupture, the tendon itself might suffer a partial or complete rupture. Many people who experience a rupture describe a popping sensation or feeling like someone kicked them in the back of the leg. This level of injury is severe and often requires emergency care.
Surgical intervention will help reconnect the tendon. The foot and lower leg will then need to be immobilized for several weeks before the rehabilitation process can begin. Most people see their range of motion return to near normal in roughly five to seven months. Though full use for physical exertion and athletics might take up to a year.