Foot & Ankle Pain

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Overview

At some point, everyone has had a minor toe, foot, or ankle injury that caused pain or swelling. Most of the time our body movements do not cause problems, but it’s not surprising that symptoms develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse or an injury. Toe, foot, or ankle injuries most commonly occur during sports or recreational activities, work-related tasks, projects around the house or systemic disease/ vascular insufficiency. 


Certain athletes, such as dancers, gymnasts, soccer or basketball players, have an increased risk of toe, foot or ankle injuries due to the nature and demands of their sports. Older adults are at a higher risk for injuries and fractures because of decreased muscle mass and bone strength as they age.

Anatomy

The foot and ankle is one of the most complex joint in the body, with twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints and tons of muscles, ligaments and tendons. All of these structures work together to bear weight, allow movement and provide a stable base for use to stand and move. 


Three bones make up the ankle joint:

  • Tibia shin bone
  • Fibula– smaller bone of the lower leg that runs next to tibia
  • Talus- a small bone that sits between the heel bone (calcaneus) and tibia and fibula

The foot needs to be strong and stable to support us, yet flexible to allow complex movement such as walking, running, jumping and kicking. 

Symptoms

The location and severity of ankle and foot pain can widely vary depending on the cause.  Ankle and foot pain can be localized to a specific area of the ankle or foot or diffused throughout, and is often accompanied by physical restriction. Ankle and foot pain can be divided into three major categories:

  • Acute injury: such as a broken bone, torn ligament or tendon
  • Medical conditions: such as arthritis or infections
  • Chronic or overuse conditions: osteoarthritis, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis

Common Injuries

  • Plantar fasciitis- Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of pain on the bottom of the heel, with about 2 million people treated for it every year. The plantar fascia is a long, thin ligament that connects the heel to the front of your foot, and supports the arch of your foot. The plantar fascia is designed to absorb the high stresses and strains we place on our feet. But, sometimes, too much pressure damages or tears the tissues. This results in the body’s natural response to injury (inflammation), which causes heel pain and stiffness of the plantar fascia.
  • Achilles tendonitis- Achilles tendonitis is a common condition that occurs when the large tendon that runs down the back of your lower leg becomes irritated and inflamed. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body, connecting your calf muscles to your heel bone. It is used when you walk, run, climb stairs, jump and stand on your toes. The Achilles tendon can withstand great stresses from running and jumping, but is prone to tendonitis (a condition associated with overuse and degeneration).  
  • Heel (bone) spurs- A heel bone spur is a calcium deposit causing a bony protrusion on the underside of the heel bone. One out of 10 people have heel spurs, but only 1 out of 20 people (5%) with heel spurs have foot pain. Although many people with plantar fasciitis have heel spurs, spurs are not often the cause of the plantar fasciitis pain. 
  • Sprain/Strained ankle- An ankle sprain occurs when the strong ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tears. Ankle sprains are common injuries among people of all ages and can range from mild to severe.
  • Ankle Fracture- An ankle fracture means that one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint are broken. A fractured ankle can range from a simple break in one bone, to several fractures. The more bones that are broken in the ankle, the more unstable the ankle becomes and may cause damage to surrounding ligaments and tendons. Ankle fractures can affect people of all ages. 
  • Morton’s Neuroma- Morton’s neuroma is thickening of the tissue that surrounds the digital nerve leading to the toes. This can cause you to feel like you are “walking on a marble”, with persistent pain at the ball of your foot between certain toes. Morton’s neuroma most frequently develops between the third and fourth toes, usually in response to irritation, trauma or excessive pressure. The incidence of Morton’s neuroma is 8-10 times greater in women than in men.

Treatment

A thorough physical examination will usually establish the diagnosis of foot and ankle pain. The underlying cause of ankle/foot pain will help direct treatment and plank of care. Most instances of ankle/foot pain can be successfully treated conservatively (physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, etc.) although some injuries may require surgical intervention. 


Source: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org


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New Wave Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation

7125 Turner Road, Rockledge, Florida 32955, United States

P: (321) 961-3805 (call/text) F: (321) 362-4678

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