The ankle joint has an impressively effective design. Imagine two hinges stacked on top of each other, one for vertical movement and one for horizontal. The ankle is structured similarly. It allows for flexion, or pointing up and down, as well eversion and inversion – rotating side to side. The joint also supports an impressive amount of force from your body weight and the impact of your steps. Damage to your ankle can severely limit your mobility and cause you long-lasting ankle pain.
Your ankle joint is made up of several bones cradling each other. The lower leg bones, the tibia and fibula, sit on top of the main bone: the talus. Where these three meet forms the ankle joint and allows for flexion both up and down. The talus sits directly on top of the heel bone, creating the subtalar joint, which allows the foot to rotate from side to side. All of the bones are held together by strong ligaments and moved by tendons attached to various muscles. Anything that damages the bones or their supporting structures results in joint weakness and discomfort for you. Since the ankles bear so much weight on a regular basis, neglecting to care for an injury or other condition can result in chronic problems later.
Like any other joint in your body, the ankle can sustain damage in numerous ways. A traumatic event could crush or tear the structures. You could overwork the joint and induce an overuse injury. A preexisting condition could also stress the area and cause pain or tissue breakdown. Some of the most common problems that affect this joint include:
Sprains: This is the most common injury we see in our practice, and is most often caused by trauma. With ankle sprains there is painful painful tearing of the connective tissues attached to the ankle when the joint over-rotates. The damage can be mild or severe, which determines the time it takes to fully recover. An untreated sprain can lead to chronic pain and weakness.
Achilles Tendinitis or Rupture: The achilles tendon is necessary for a significant amount of up and down ankle movement, so when it is painful, inflamed or torn, you are unable to move efficiently. Achilles tendinitis pain, usually sharp pain, is located in the back of your heel and ankle. It is often accompanied by swelling, and can be irritated by the backs of your shoes.
Ankle arthritis– Multiple kinds of arthritis exist, though three main types are most likely to affect the ankle: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post traumatic arthritis. All three result in the wearing down and inflammation of the bone tissues in the joint.
Ankle fractures– Any of the three bones that make up the ankle joint can be subjected to extreme stress and break under the strain. This causes intense pain and weakness, and often are so painful that weight bearing and walking would be difficult if not impossible.
Chronic ankle instability– Repeated injuries to the joint or the ankle ligaments that goes untreated, can result in long-lasting and discomfort. This makes it harder for you to go about your normal activities.
Talar fracture– Breaking the talus bone can be more complicated than damage to the tibia and fibula. The talus is hard to reach and very slow-healing, increasing the risk of chronic instability.
Other ankle problems do exist, like osteochondritis, bursitis, impingement, stress fractures and tendinitis in other connectors. Determining what is causing your discomfort – and the best ways to remedy it – requires a thorough evaluation and diagnostic testing.
If you’re struggling with ankle pain or weakness, do not ignore the problem with the hopes that it will feel better soon. Untreated conditions can lead to long-lasting instability and risk future re-injury. The experts at Country Foot Care can examine your ankle and work with you to develop a plan of recovery to get you back to your activities pain-free.