If you are suffering from ankle pain, it could be caused by a number of different injuries or medical conditions. Any problem causing pain, swelling, discoloration, or loss of motion in the joint should be evaluated by your doctor as early as possible. The earlier the problem is dealt with, the better the outcome or diagnosis will be – and the more treatable it will be.
The anatomy of the ankle is complex. Simply put, it is the joint where the tibia and fibula bones of your lower leg meet with the talus bone in the foot.
These bones are held together at the ankle joint by muscle, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, all of which give the ankle its strength, flexibility, and range of motion. If the ankle gets damaged, it can limit your range of motion and your ability to move freely, and can make even the slightest movement excruciatingly painful.
Although many ankle injuries happen during athletic activity, this isn’t always the case; just walking over an uneven surface could cause a nasty injury. The most common injuries to the ankle include the following:
A sprain can happen when you stretch or tear one or more ligaments in your ankle. Something as simple as walking on an uneven surface or wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause a sudden loss of balance that makes the ankle twist. The resulting damage can cause swelling, pain, and bruising.
If it is a light sprain, it should only take a few days to heal – and can usually be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). A serious sprain can mean the ligament has suffered a complete tear, and walking or any weight-bearing on the ankle is not possible.
Ankle sprains are categorized by the amount of injury to the ligaments:
- A Grade One sprained ankle has minimal impairment, slight stretching, and some damage to the ligament fibers.
- A Grade Two sprain is characterized by partial tearing of the ligament. The ankle joint is lax or looser than normal.
- A Grade Three sprain describes a complete tear of the ligament. The ankle joint is completely unstable.
The majority of ankle sprains heal with nonsurgical treatment methods, but a major sprain or several minor sprains can lead to permanent ankle instability if left untreated. It is recommended that you seek evaluation by your orthopedist for any ankle injury, as they can determine the severity of the injury and recommend the best course of treatment.
A strained ankle is less common than a sprained ankle, and it can occur due to overuse of the ankle such as in long-distance running. It causes similar symptoms as a sprain but occurs when the muscles or tendons get overstretched or torn. The tendons stabilize and protect the ankle but can become inflamed through injury or overuse.
A broken ankle is the same thing as an ankle fracture, and it describes a break in one or more of the bones that make up the ankle joint. Fractures can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and bruising, so they can be mistaken for sprains.
Related to a broken ankle is a hindfoot fracture, which occurs in the heel bone (calcaneus) or the bone above the heel (talus). This injury can be serious and can take a long time to heal, with or without surgery, and you will not be able to put weight on your foot to stand or walk.
Health Conditions Which Can Cause Ankle Pain
Some medical conditions can affect the ankle and cause pain, including the following:
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and can affect the ankle, and it is caused by wear-and-tear over time. Osteoarthritis is the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones where they meet at the joints; this breakdown causes the bones to rub against each other which can cause stiffness, pain, and loss of range of motion in the joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease in which the body’s immune system begins to attack the membrane that protects and lines the joints. The result can be pain, swelling, loss of function, and joint damage, and it can spread to other organs of the body as well.
Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when excess uric acid (a waste product circulating in the bloodstream) builds up in the body and deposits urate crystals in the joints. Gout often begins as a result of an injury or illness, and the first symptoms usually affect the big toe – moving to other joints, including the ankles.
Those who suffer from gout experience excruciating pain and swelling in their joints. The best way to prevent and resolve gout is by drinking plenty of water.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissue, including joints and organs. Lupus can cause ankle pain and swelling, however this may indicate the kidneys have been affected.
Septic or infectious arthritis is arthritis that is the result of an infection, such as a virus, within the joint. It can also be caused by bacteria that has spread through the bloodstream to the joint and can affect the ankles.
This type of infection can cause swelling, extreme discomfort, and difficulty using the ankle. If the condition is left untreated, it can cause joint destruction.
Orthopedic Doctors in Colorado Springs
Causes of ankle pain can range in complexity, but any pain or joint discomfort that lasts for more than a few days and prevents you from going through your daily routine should be evaluated by a doctor or orthopedist. The diagnosis and the severity of the pain will determine the best course of treatment for you.
If you are suffering with ankle pain or any other joint issues, our experts at the Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence can offer you the specialized help you need. We perform a comprehensive evaluation of the affected area and use diagnostic testing to ensure an accurate diagnosis. We use the most innovative treatments and, where possible, try to use noninvasive or minimally invasive treatments – including joint injections, cryotherapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and rehabilitation.
Don’t let ankle pain ruin your lifestyle. At Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence, our specialists can help eliminate the pain so you can get back to peak condition and return to your normal activities as soon as possible.