The ankle is a delicate joint, so when something is wrong, it’s crucial to seek treatment that is quick and effective. Ankle injuries can be extremely painful or merely a nuisance, and they range from common ankle sprains and arthritis to fractures and tendon damage. Treating ankle injuries can be as simple as ice and elevation, but severe injuries may require surgery and physical therapy. If you believe that you may have an ankle injury, then you need to consult a foot and ankle specialist. The surgeon will be able to diagnose and treat your problem, and have you moving again in no time.
The Most Common Causes of Ankle Pain
If you roll your ankle or break it in an accident, then the cause of your ankle injury will be obvious. Unfortunately, not every ankle issue is straightforward and marked by a traumatic event. Like any joint, ankles can get damaged simply by overuse. They are also a frequent target of several types of arthritis and other painful inflammatory conditions. To make matters worse, many ailments gradually creep up on patients over time, making it even harder to pinpoint their origin.
The most prevalent reasons for ankle pain are:
- Sprains – Many people have experienced at least a mild ankle sprain. It occurs when your ankle twists or rolls while you are walking or doing some other type of physical activity.
- Fractures – Stress fractures often result from overuse. These small cracks within the bone get progressively painful, but can often be soothed by resting the affected area.
- Breaks – Falls and accidents cause most ankle breaks. A broken ankle can mean anything from a tiny fracture to a large break that penetrates your skin.
- Achilles Tendinitis – While Achilles tendinitis suggests an inflamed Achilles, it is typically made up of paratenonitis or tendinosis, or both. Paratenonitis occurs when the tendon is overused and becomes inflamed and swollen. It is typically seen in runners. Tendinosis is actual degeneration of the tendon. It is usually seen in patients who are older and commonly results from repetitive motion during sports activities.
- Achilles Tendon Ruptures – Caused by overstretching your tendon, an Achilles tendon rupture feels like a snap or pop accompanied by intense pain at the back of your ankle.
- Osteoarthritis – Although osteoarthritis generally impacts other joints, it can affect your ankle. It takes place when the protective cartilage at the ends of your bones deteriorates, and is most often seen in older patients.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis – A less-common form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis takes place when your immune system attacks your joints, tissues, or even internal organs.
- Psoriatic Arthritis – In patients who suffer from psoriasis, sometimes psoriatic arthritis presents. Many patients note stiffness and joint pain in the mornings that eventually dissipates throughout the day.
- Reactive Arthritis – A very uncommon form of arthritis, reactive arthritis develops when an infection somewhere in the body triggers it.
- Gout – An extremely painful type of arthritis, gout causes swelling and redness in the joints during episodes – or attacks – that often occur suddenly at night.
- Pseudogout – Pseudogout is a relatively common joint condition that causes pain, stiffness, and swelling. It develops when calcium crystals deposit into the joints.
- Bursitis – While bursitis usually affects the knees or shoulders, it can also inflame the ankle. It is typically caused by perpetual repetitive motion.
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome – Caused by a compressed nerve, tarsal tunnel syndrome usually happens when patients have experienced a prior ankle injury. It commonly causes pain, numbness, and tingling on the bottom of the foot.
- Osteochondritis Dissecans – Generally seen in younger children, this joint condition arises when the bone beneath joint cartilage dies from lack of blood flow. The cartilage and bone then separate, creating pain, swelling, and sometimes inhibiting motion. It is usually seen in very active adolescents.
Treating Ankle Pain and Injuries
There are many ways to treat ankle issues. Based on the severity of the problem, surgery may be required to repair the damage. The most common treatment techniques are:
- RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) – Great for treating mild sprains and issues like Achilles tendinitis.
- Physical Therapy – Often joint issues need professional attention, like massage and targeted stretching, from a trained physical therapist.
- Bracing or Splinting – To heal a fracture or keep the joint motionless, your doctor may recommend a brace, splint, boot, or cast to immobilize your ankle. Crutches will also likely be used to keep weight off of the joint as it heals.
- Anti-inflammatory Medications and Injections – Typically prescribed to treat different types of arthritis, your doctor will use medications to ease pain and reduce swelling. Medications are usually used in conjunction with other treatment methods. Injections can contain anything from steroids and lubrications to hyaluronic acid and platelet rich plasma (PRP).
- Orthotics – Custom pads and braces can be used to help treat arthritis and other inflammation issues.
- Surgery – If surgery is required to treat a break or a condition like Osteochondritis Dissecans, it can often be performed arthroscopically. Arthroscopic surgery is minimally invasive and is performed through very small incisions around the joint. Ankle Ligament Reconstruction (ALR) is another surgical method generally used to repair ligament damage. It is done by making a J- or C-shaped incision on the ankle and then using stitches or anchors to strengthen the ligaments.
- Ankle Fusion – Sometimes used to treat arthritis or other deterioration, ankle fusion is a surgical procedure in which the surfaces of the ankle joint are removed so that the talus and the tibia can “fuse” together. Fusions are great for reducing pain, but they essentially make the ankle immobile.
- Cartilage Transplants – Used to replace deteriorated cartilage due to arthritis, a cartilage transplant consists of attaching cartilage cells to the bone and cartilage so that they can replenish the damaged cartilage areas.
Finding a Foot and Ankle Specialist
If you are experiencing ankle pain or other issues, it’s imperative to seek treatment from an orthopaedic surgeon who concentrates on foot and ankle reconstruction. The ankle is a highly-complicated joint, and only skilled surgeons should diagnose and treat them. Foot and ankle surgeons receive customized training on a wide range of ankle procedures, so they have the experience necessary to repair even the most complicated injuries successfully.
If you are currently dealing with an ankle issue, contact Countryside Orthopaedics today. We have lower extremity specialists on staff and offer the latest diagnostic and therapeutic treatments on the market. You’ll be back to the activities you love in no time!