Your ankles deal with a huge amount of pressure every time you stand up. These complex, load-bearing joints bear the brunt of your body weight, and are responsible for movement, stability and balance.
The ankle joint is located where the tibia and fibula (bones of the lower leg) join the main foot bone (talus). The whole structure is held together by an intricate web of ligaments and tissues.
The complexity of the ankle joint makes it vulnerable to injury, so here are some common problems to look out for.
This is the most common ankle injury. If you forcefully twist or roll your ankle out of its normal position, the connective ligaments and tissues will stretch or even tear. This can be extremely painful and is often marked by bruising and swelling.
Over time, constant wear and tear can cause the cartilage of the ankle joint to wear down. Cartilage is a cushioning tissue between bones to prevent them from rubbing together. Without this cushion, any movement will be extremely painful and the joint will become inflamed and stiff.
This inflammatory form of arthritis can affect many joints, including the ankles. An excess of uric acid causes crystals to form and collect in the soft tissue of the joint. The subsequent swelling and inflammation can be excruciating.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
The bones on the inside of your ankle are covered by a ligament to form a narrow tunnel. Numerous veins, arteries, ligaments and nerves run through this small space – the main nerve being the posterior tibial nerve.
Sometimes this nerve is unnaturally compressed – for example, if the ankle is swollen due to a sprain, a cyst or water retention. This causes pain and tingling, and may even lead to numbness.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is generally triggered by overuse, such as a long hike or standing for too long. Nerve damage is a possibility if the condition is ignored, so don’t hesitate to contact your podiatrist if you think you have this.
Ankles must endure a constant pounding all day long, so broken bones are always a hazard. Sports peoples can be particularly prone to ankle injuries but it’s a possibility for anyone.
In addition, a sprain can lead to an avulsion fracture. As the ankle twists and pulls on a ligament, a piece of the bone to which it’s attached can pull away.
Referred Ankle Pain
Problems in other parts of the feet or lower legs can produce pain in the ankles. Even though the issue originates elsewhere it’s often mistaken for an ankle problem.
Achilles tendonitis is a common example. The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to the heel bone, and this can become inflamed or even tear. Stiffness, pain and swelling will be felt around the ankle and heel. Usually, this results from overuse and is often experienced by athletes.
Plantar Fasciitis is a similar condition whereby the band of tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes (the plantar fascia) becomes inflamed. Whilst not strictly an ankle issue, the pain may still manifest in this area.
Help from Your Podiatrist
With help from your podiatrist ankle problems don’t need to be daunting. Icing, stretching exercises, orthotics and anti-inflammatory medication are all helpful – depending on your issues.
A podiatrist can also give guidance on healthy living in general – good for everyone but particularly sufferers of gout where a healthy diet is essential to control levels of uric acid.
For comprehensive care contact one of our London foot clinics.