Foot and ankle injuries bring millions of people worldwide to their local podiatrists every year. Their typical complaints include pain, swelling, stiffness, inflammation, difficulty walking, and various deformities.
Many of them are diagnosed with minor foot problems, such as ingrown nails, warts, and athlete’s foot. However, active patients may be treated for more complex conditions, such as ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis.
Below are some of the most common foot and ankle injuries anyone can experience. Take a look at this list and see if you have one of the following. If you do, consult your doctor immediately to receive proper treatment and prevent the condition from worsening.
For more complicated musculoskeletal issues, seek immediate medical attention from a certified doctor specializing in foot and ankle injuries. Visit summitortho.net or other orthopedic centers near you.
In the meantime, here are the most common foot and ankle injuries, how they’re treated, and how to prevent them.
1. Ankle Sprain
An ankle sprain is an injury caused by awkwardly twisting, turning, or rolling your ankle. This may tear your ligaments (the tough bands of tissue) that keep your ankle bones together, causing pain and inflammation.
The role of ligaments is to stabilize joints to prevent excessive movements. A sprain occurs when you force them to move beyond their normal range of motion.
Symptoms of ankle sprains may include:
- Pain when the affected foot bears weight
- Tenderness upon touching
- Limited range of motion
- Lack of stability
- Popping sensation at the moment of tearing the ligaments
Treatment for ankle sprains may vary depending on how severe the injury is. Although self-care and over-the-counter medications typically work, a medical assessment might be necessary to see how badly injured your ankle is and find the appropriate treatment.
To prevent spraining your ankle, warm up before playing sports, be careful when walking on uneven surfaces, minimize wearing high heels, and maintain strong and flexible muscles.
2. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis refers to the inflammation of the plantar fascia, which causes pain in your heel.
The plantar fascia is a type of ligament that connects the front of your foot to your heel. This helps you walk by acting as a shock absorber and supporting the foot arch.
Plantar fasciitis is a common complaint because ligaments experience daily wear and tear due to constant pressure. This causes the tissue to become inflamed, resulting in a stiff and aching heel.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:
- Pain that can be sharp or dull
- Burning sensation at the bottom of the foot
- Pain radiating toward the outer edge of the heel
- Pain that intensifies in the morning
- Pain that worsens when sitting or lying down for prolonged periods
- Pain when climbing stairs due to heel stiffness
Rest, ice compression, anti-inflammatory medications, and braces may help treat plantar fasciitis.
However, suppose these nonsurgical treatments don’t relieve the pain. In that case, a corticosteroid injection may help heal the damaged part of the ligament.
A few lifestyle changes may be necessary to prevent plantar fasciitis. For example, you may need to replace your old shoes with arch-supportive ones or warm up your calves before working out.
3. Broken Ankle
A broken ankle is the fracture of one or more bones in the ankle joint, such as the talus, tibia, or fibula. It happens when the ankle is rolled, twisted, or turned in an awkward way, especially during strenuous activities such as sports.
However, a high-force impact can also lead to a fractured ankle, such as a car collision or a fall.
A broken ankle can be treated using surgical or nonsurgical methods. An orthopedic doctor may treat the fracture without surgery if only one bone is affected, the ankle is stable, or the bones are in place. This is often done by putting on a cast or using a brace as a splint to immobilize the affected ankle.
But if your ankle is unstable, the doctor may require you to undergo surgery. Often, the ankle is stabilized using screws and a metal plate to keep the bones in place.
After the surgery, you’ll need a splint to protect your ankle until the swelling is gone.
To avoid breaking your ankles, you’ll need to wear supportive, well-gripping shoes (especially when you’re playing sports), replace them regularly, and strengthen your bones and ankle muscles.
4. Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the strongest and largest tendon of the body. It’s located at the back of the heel, which connects the calf muscle and heel bone. This helps you walk, jump, and run by raising your heel off the floor. Although it’s strong, overstressing it can cause injuries.
Symptoms of Achilles tendinitis may include the following:
- Ankle pain and heel pain
- Weakness of the leg
- Swelling around the affected tendon
- Tenderness and stiffness around the affected tendon
- Discomfort after exercising, while climbing stairs, and in the morning
Achilles tendinitis can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). You can also take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and stretch your muscles to relieve the pain and regain strength.
However, if nonsurgical treatments aren’t effective, your doctor may recommend surgery.
To prevent Achilles tendinitis, avoid walking barefoot often, use custom orthotics to support your ankle and heel, and wear a splint at night to keep your Achilles tendon stretched while sleeping.
5. Heel Spurs
A heel spur is a growth that protrudes out of the bottom of the heel, where the heel bone and the ligament are connected. This condition may develop over time and often goes unnoticed until you feel pain.
Treating heel pain often includes the following:
- Resting the heel. Avoid running or jogging to help the heel heal.
- Using cold packs. Applying ice to the bottom of your foot accelerates healing and reduces pain.
- Taking oral pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to relieve the pain.
Keep in mind that heel spurs are permanent once formed. The only way to remove them is by surgery. They may also indicate the presence of another medical condition. Therefore, treating what caused them may help ease the pain. Visit an orthopedic doctor for advice.
Know How To Handle Them
Issues like plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, Achilles tendinitis, sprained ankle, and broken ankle affect millions worldwide, regardless of whether or not they’re physically active. If some parts of your feet are painful, consider resting or icing the affected area to relieve the pain. But if symptoms persist for several months, seek medical attention at once.
Recognize the signs of severe foot and ankle injuries and act accordingly.