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Ankles are joints that connect bones in the feet with bones in the lower leg. They are comprised of bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves. The ankle joint allows the foot to move side-to-side, as well as up-and-down.
Ankle pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, but is most commonly due to soft tissue injuries such as ankle sprains and strains.
An ankle sprain occurs when one or more of the strong ligaments that support and stabilize the ankle become overly stretched or even torn if the ankle rolls, turns, or twists awkwardly. Depending on the grade of sprain (mild-moderate-severe), there will be varying degrees of pain, swelling, and restricted range of motion, along with tenderness, bruising, and ankle instability. There may even be an audible popping noise at the moment of injury.
Ankle strains can sometimes produce similar symptoms of pain, swelling, and loss of motion, however, they are due to overly stretched muscles and tendons—not ligaments. Ankle strains may also cause muscle cramps in the feet, calves and shins.
Ankle fractures are another common source of ankle pain and occur one or more of the three bones in the ankle become fractured (broken). These breaks can be stress fractures (due to repetitive stress) or traumatic fractures (due to an acute injury). Depending on where and how severe the fracture is, symptoms can include pain and swelling that can sometimes spread up to the knee, bruising or discoloration, and an inability to bear weight. A visible deformity or exposed bone may occur in severe fractures.
Various forms of arthritis may also cause ankle pain. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes the immune system to attack healthy joints, like the ankle joint, by mistake, causing stiffness and swelling in both ankles. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage covering the ends of bones wears down, causing the bones to rub against each other. This results in pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the ankle. Gout is a form of arthritis where excess amounts of uric acid in the bloodstream crystallize and build up on joints, causing severe pain and swelling. Reactive arthritis causes joint pain and swelling in the ankle in response to an infection in another part of the body.
Other forms of ankle pain include bursitis (an inflammation of a cushioning bursa sac between tendons and bone), scleroderma (a thickening of connective tissues), chronic ankle instability (caused by improperly healed ankle sprains), Achilles tendon injuries, flat feet, or an infection in the ankle.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD), or peripheral arterial disease, is a circulatory problem in which there is a reduction of blood flow to the limbs due to narrowed arteries. When peripheral artery disease develops, the extremities do not receive enough blood flow; this may cause symptoms to develop such as claudication, or leg pain when walking. The legs are the most common site of peripheral artery disease.
Claudication, or leg pain when walking, is one of several symptoms that can develop due to peripheral artery disease. Other symptoms caused by the disease include painful cramping in the hips, thighs, or calves after certain activities; leg numbness or weakness; coldness in the lower leg or foot; sores on the lower extremities that do not heal; hair loss on the lower extremities; and a missing or weak pulse in the lower extremities. In more severe cases, pain may even occur when the body is at rest or when lying down.
Peripheral artery disease is typically caused by atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits build up in the arterial walls and reduce blood flow. Smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are some of the risk factors for peripheral artery disease.
If you are experiencing pain, numbness, or other symptoms in the lower extremities, see your healthcare professional immediately. Diagnosed peripheral artery disease can be treated with various medications, angioplasty and surgery, exercise programs, or alternative medicine. It is important to consult a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment for you.
There are many reasons why patients experience swelling of the feet. It is rather common and may be a side effect of pregnancy or from sitting and standing for most of the day. Gravity could also play a role in the development of swollen feet. It is known that the weight of blood volume in our bodies is exerted on the veins in the legs and feet. The veins may not work as efficiently during the aging process, and this could make the blood flow backward causing swollen feet. Relief may be found when obese patients lose weight, and it may help to engage in compression therapy by wearing compression socks, stockings, or athletic sleeves. This method can release pressure on the feet and ankles which may help to reduce existing swelling. There are patients who have controlled their swollen feet by implementing healthy lifestyle changes. These can consist of reducing salt intake, incorporating a gentle exercise regime into the daily routine, and drinking plenty of fresh water. Swollen feet may be a temporary condition that affects people who travel via airplane or automobile, so it is beneficial to walk as frequently as possible even though it can be difficult. Swelling of the feet can also be indicative of other health issues so it is important to pay attention to any type of chest pain, mental confusion, dizziness, or fever. If you consistently have swollen feet, it is strongly suggested that you consult with a podiatrist who can help determine the cause and how to effectively treat it.
Have you ever gotten up from a chair or out of bed in the morning, and upon taking that first step, feel like your heel has stepped on a tack? Many people experience a feeling of sharp pain which radiates into their arch from their heel and which does not allow them to put their heel on the floor. Sometimes they need to sit back down, stand only on their toes and use the wall for balance. If you can take a few steps, it seems to go away and lessen, allowing you to then resume your activity. Later, throughout your day and after a period of rest, it can happen again. If this sounds familiar you may be suffering from your first attack of heel pain.
Heel pain is a debilitating condition that affects day to day activities. Running and walking both causes stress on the heel because the heel is the part of the foot that hits the ground first. This means that the heel is taking on your entire weight. Diagnosis and treatments for heel pain can be easily found through your podiatrist.
One of the main causes of heel pain is a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that extends along the bottom of the foot, from the toe to the bottom of the heel. A rip or tear in this ligament can cause inflammation of these tissues, resulting in heel pain. People who do not wear proper fitting shoes are often at risk of developing problems such as plantar fasciitis. Unnecessary stress from ill-fitting shoes, weight change, excessive running, and wearing non-supportive shoes on hard surfaces are all causes of plantar fasciitis.
Achilles tendonitis is another cause of heel pain. Similar to plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the Achilles tendon will cause heel pain due to stress fractures and muscle tearing. A lack of flexibility of the ankle and heel is an indicator of Achilles tendonitis. If left untreated, this condition can lead to plantar fasciitis and cause even more pain on your heel.
A third cause of heel pain is a heel spur. A heel spur occurs when the tissues of the plantar fascia undergo a great deal of stress, leading to a separation of the ligament from the heel bone entirely. This results in a pointed fragment of bone on the ball of the foot, known as a heel spur.