Foot and ankle injuries affect millions of people every year. Listed below are ten of the most common injuries in the foot and ankle. If you are dealing with any symptoms of a foot or ankle injury, we welcome you to reach out to AICA to ensure that you receive a proper diagnosis and an effective treatment plan.
Approximately two million people in the United States sprain their ankle every year, making it one of the most common ankle injuries. Ankle sprains can be caused by jumping or pivoting in a sport, walking on uneven ground, or wearing unsupportive shoes. Ligaments in the ankle keep the joint from moving too far from side to side. When there is a sprain, one or more of these ligaments have been stretched or torn.
The most common type of sprain in the ankle is an inversion injury, also known as a lateral ankle sprain. This type of sprain occurs when the foot rolls inward and damages the ligaments of the outer ankle. Less commonly occurring types of ankle sprains are medial sprains and syndesmotic sprains. Syndesmotic sprains, most commonly occurring in contact sports, are likely to cause subsequent ankle sprains and ankle instability.
Although most ankle sprains are minor and will heal with ice and rest, if swelling and pain continue, you should seek the help of a specialist. Moderate or severe sprains left untreated can severely weaken the ankle over time and cause repeated sprains. Ultimately, repeated ankle sprains can lead to arthritis.
Achilles Tendonitis or Tears
The Achilles Tendon, the largest tendon in the body, connects the two primary calf muscles to the bone in your heel. This tendon runs lengthwise down the back of the ankle and is prone to inflammation due to overuse. This condition is called Achilles tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis can lead to pain and stiffness in the calf, as well as a limited range of motion. Those with Achilles tendonitis are also more susceptible to an Achilles tear or rupture after the inflammation and damage have built up over time.
An Achilles tear can also occur due to sudden trauma. If you hear a popping noise and experience heel pain after a jump, the tendon may have potentially ruptured. Symptoms of an Achilles rupture include pain and swelling near the heel, an inability to bend the foot downwards when walking, an inability to stand on the toes on the injured leg, and the feeling of having been kicked in the calf. A complete rupture may require surgery to repair the tendon and physical therapy to restore your range of motion. An MRI or physical examination by a foot and ankle specialist will be able to determine the extent of the injury.
Stress Fractures of the Foot
The impact of repetitive and excessive force can cause tiny breaks in the bones of your foot called stress fractures. When your bones and supporting muscles do not have time to heal between exercise sessions, these cracks in the bones can occur. Stress fractures often affect the feet and typically develop over time, so you may not notice them initially. Over time, the pain will increase until even walking feels intolerable.
Running on hard surfaces, such as pavement or asphalt, and wearing unsupportive footwear can increase the risk of a stress fracture. Stress fractures can also occur when someone suddenly increases their level of physical activity. You can prevent stress fractures by slowly changing your exercise routine, cross-training by adding low-impact activities to your exercise routine, and wearing proper footwear.
A doctor will often use imaging tests to diagnose a stress fracture, such as x-rays, bone scans, or an MRI. Treatment may include wearing a walking boot or brace or using crutches to reduce the fractured bone’s weight-bearing load until the foot is healed. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to completely heal specific types of stress fractures, primarily those that occur in areas with poor blood supply.
Turf toe is a sprain of the ligaments around the big toe joint. It’s commonly associated with football players who play on artificial turf; however, it can also affect athletes in other sports such as basketball, soccer, gymnastics, wrestling, and dance. Turf toe is caused by repeatedly pushing off the big toe as in jumping and running or also by jamming the big toe.
Doctors often grade a turf toe injury from mild to severe. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be able to use the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method, or you may need pain medication and additional treatment from a specialist. Most turf toe injuries do not require surgery; however, if your symptoms persist, surgery is an option. Doctors may recommend surgery for severe turf toe injuries, including a severe plantar complex tear, sesamoid fracture, MTP joint vertical instability, or cartilage damage of the joint. Your injury doctor will be able to determine the most appropriate recovery method for you.
A metatarsal fracture is one of the most common foot injuries encountered in trauma and emergency. This type of fracture is a break in one of the five long bones which form the middle part of your foot, running from the length of the foot to the base of the toes. They typically occur from direct forefoot trauma, such as an athlete stepping on another player’s foot. Metatarsal fractures can also occur from repeated stress on the foot bones. This type of fracture is common among dancers due to constant jumping and balancing or turning on one foot. Some common symptoms of a metatarsal fracture include pinpoint pain that is localized at the site of the impact to the bone, bruising and swelling, difficulty putting weight on the foot, and limited movement of the affected foot.
Metatarsal fractures may take six weeks to several months to completely heal. Treatment will depend on how severe the fracture is and also where the fracture is on the bone. You may potentially need a cast or splint, and in the most severe cases, surgery may be required. Your doctor may also suggest physiotherapy to help regain range of motion and strength in the foot.
Fractures of the Ankle
An ankle fracture is typically the result of a traumatic injury of impact. A fracture in the ankle is much different from a sprain, but sometimes patients confuse these two injuries and incorrectly self-diagnose. An ankle fracture can be caused by twisting your ankle, tripping or falling, and impact from a jump.
Common symptoms of a fracture in the ankle include immediate and severe pain, swelling, bruising, tenderness when touched, and deformity. An ankle fracture can range from a simple break in one bone, which may not prevent you from walking, to several fractures, which may require you to not put any weight on it for a few months.
If your doctor suspects a broken ankle, they will order additional tests to provide more information regarding your injury, including x-rays, stress tests, an MRI, or CT scans. Depending on the severity of your ankle fracture, your doctor may recommend a cast or brace be worn until the ankle is completely healed. In more severe cases, they may recommend surgery.
Shin splints are an inflammation of the tendons, muscles, and bone tissue around the tibia, commonly referred to as the shinbone. Pain from shin splints often occurs toward the inner front of the tibia between the knee and ankle, where the muscles attach to the bone. Shin splints commonly affect athletes who regularly engage in moderate to heavy activity in sports, including soccer, basketball, and tennis. The repetitive action in this activity can lead to the inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and tissue covering the tibia, resulting in pain.
The symptoms of shin splints include pain felt on the front and outside of the shin, as well as pain that starts on the inside of the lower leg above the ankle. The pain will often be initially felt when the heel touches the ground during running and when standing on the toes or rolling the ankle forward. This pain will increase as the shin splint progresses. You can often treat shin splints with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers. If these remedies do not ease your shin pain, you will need to consult a specialist.
Approximately two million patients are treated for Plantar Fasciitis each year. Plantar Fasciitis occurs when the Fascia band of tissue in the arch of your foot becomes inflamed, which causes sharp pain in the heel. Patients suffering from Plantar Fasciitis often complain of pain in the first few steps after a long period of rest, such as sitting for a long period of time or after waking up. They also typically experience greater pain after engaging in physical activity.
Risk factors for Plantar Fasciitis include high foot arches, obesity, tight calf muscles that make it difficult to flex your foot, repetitive impact activity such as running, and new or increased physical activity. Some cases can be resolved with rest, ice, and stretching, while others may require medication, cortisone injections, and wearing a special heel pad for pain relief. Surgery may be recommended in the most severe cases when there has been no improvement after nonsurgical treatment. Your specialist will be able to recommend the appropriate treatment plan for you.
Sesamoiditis is the inflammation of the sesamoid bones in the ball of the foot and the tendons that they are embedded in. It is commonly caused by overuse, especially by runners, dancers, and other athletes who frequently bear weight on the balls of their feet. Sesamoiditis can also be caused by frequently walking in high heel shoes.
The symptoms of sesamoiditis include pain under the big toe, difficulty bending the big toe, difficulty walking, swelling, redness, and bruising. In addition to athletes and people who frequently wear high heels, people with high arches, people with flat feet, and people who walk with an inward roll of the foot are more prone to sesamoiditis. It can also be a side effect of gout in rare cases.
Treatment of sesamoiditis includes rest, ice and elevation, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication. In more severe cases, steroid injections may be used to relieve the pain and inflammation, and in chronic cases, surgery may be an option. Your injury doctor will be able to talk you through all potential options and help you decide which treatment is best for you.
Neuromas are a benign growth of nerve tissue, also known as pinched nerves. They are frequently found between the third and fourth toes on the foot and cause a burning sensation, tingling, or numbness between the toes and in the ball of the foot. The exact cause of neuromas is unclear, but some factors contribute to the formation of neuromas, including high arches in the feet, flat feet, a trauma that causes damage to the nerve, improper footwear that causes the toes to be squeezed together, and repeated stress.
The symptoms of a neuroma include pain in the forefoot between the toes, tingling and numbness in the ball of the foot, pain in the ball of the foot when weight is placed on it, and swelling between the toes. Neuromas may be treated by padding and taping, medication, orthotics, and in severe cases, surgery. Your foot and ankle specialist can help determine which treatment is best for you.
Get Treated Today
Visit AICA Orthopedics to learn more about how our team of doctors can help you receive a proper diagnosis and provide you with an effective treatment plan for your ankle or foot injury. Our specialists will talk you through all of your options for your injury, and our orthopedic doctors will help you determine what treatment will work best for you. We also have physical therapists who work alongside our orthopedic surgeons and other specialists to ensure that you receive quality, comprehensive care as you recover. Call or visit us online to get started at an AICA Orthopedics location near you.