The ankle is a joint that provides both up-and-down and side-to-side movement in the foot. It also supports the foot, absorbs shock and assists in overall balance and motion. Puget Sound Orthopaedics (PSO) foot and ankle surgeons use the most advanced surgical and nonsurgical treatments including braces, orthotics and minimally invasive surgery to help patients get back on their feet.
The ankle is made up of three (3) bones: the tibia (shinbone), fibula (the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg) and talus (a bone that sits above the heel bone). Ligaments surrounding the joint and all of the bones bind the ankle to the foot. Walking, running and jumping are supported by the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the human body that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone and can withstand great stress.
Injuries to the Ankle
While arthritis can take many forms, osteoarthritis (“wear-and-tear”) can cause inflammation of one or more of the joints in the ankle. Left untreated the joints can lose their normal shape and lead to more pain and further limitations. Rheumatoid arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis also are types of arthritis that can affect the ankle.
An ankle joint fracture can occur in any of the three bones (more typically the bones in the lower leg) when the ankle is twisted, rolled or impacted by a trip or fall.
Ankle sprains are common in people of all ages and occur when one of the ligaments is damaged. The ligaments on the outside are more often sprained from an accidental twist or turn of the foot. Sprains are usually minor and can be treated with the R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) protocol. A high ankle sprain involves an injured ligament that joins the two lower leg bones and may take longer to heal.
When to See a Specialist
Seek medical treatment from a foot and ankle specialist if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Pain, swelling or bruising
- The ankle is tender to the touch
- An inability to put any weight on the injured foot
- Feeling instability of the ankle
- Hearing or feeling a “pop” when an injury occurs
Your doctor will discuss all treatment options with you. The best treatment for your injury or condition will be determined in combination with your overall health.
There are several nonoperative treatment options for ankle pain. These might include physical therapy, pain management in the form of over-the-counter or prescribed medications and/or anti-inflammatories and braces. If surgery is necessary, PSO foot and ankle specialists can perform a wide variety of procedures ranging from minimally invasive to major reconstruction.