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Conditions you may be experiencing:
Achilles Tendinitis (Inflammation of Heel to Calf Tendon)
The Achilles tendon is one of the largest, and strongest, tendons in the human body. It connects the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg (the gastrocnemius and the soleus) to the back of the heel bone. When the calf muscles flex, the Achilles tendon pulls on the heel. This supports the natural movement of the foot, allowing it to extend while walking, running or jumping. If the Achilles tendon is over-stressed it can often become irritated and inflamed, resulting in tendinitis. Over time this can lead to the development of scar tissue which can inhibit the natural flexibility of the Achilles tendon. If the inflammation remains unchecked, and the Achilles tendon continues to be stressed, it can lead to a tear or rupture of the tendon.
Causes of Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis is rarely the result of a specific injury. It is more commonly caused by excessive stress and strain being placed upon the tendon itself. This often happens when the body is pushed beyond its natural performance limits. Runners and other athletes are particularly prone to developing tendinitis, though the condition can affect anyone who places undue strain or unexpected stress on their Achilles tendon.
Factors that can contribute to the development of Achilles tendinitis include:
- Changes in exercise routines: for example, an increase in a runner’s daily mileage without giving the body time to adjust to the new distance can over-stress the Achilles tendon, leading to tendinitis
- Tight calf muscles: tight or fatigued calf muscles transfer too much of the burden of running and training to the Achilles tendon, making it more susceptible to injury. This is a common cause of tendinitis in athletes and joggers who fail to warm up properly prior to an exercise routine
- Hill running: running on uneven terrain places greater stress on the Achilles tendon, often leading to tendinitis
- Improper footwear: inflexible running shoes can force the Achilles to twist in an unnatural manner, leading to excess stress and strain on the tendon
- Postural problems: people with flat feet or over-arched feet are more prone to developing tendinitis. Runners whose feet rotate too far inward on impact are also more susceptible to Achilles tendinitis
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis
The most common symptoms associated with Achilles tendinitis include:
- Pain and stiffness along the Achilles tendon in the morning
- Pain along tendon or back of heel that worsens with activity
- Severe pain the day after exercising
- Thickening of tendon
- Bone spur at lower part of tendon at back of heel
- Persistent swelling that worsens throughout the day with activity
- Decreased ability to flex foot
Ankle Arthritis (Joint Pain and Inflammation)
The ankle is comprised of three bones – the tibia, the fibula and the talus. These bones form the ankle joint, enabling an up and down movement of the foot. The ends of these bones are covered with a thin layer of articular cartilage, which is a slippery substance that allows the bones in a joint to glide freely and smoothly over each other during movement. Articular cartilage also acts as a cushion for the joint, protecting the bones from damage.
Arthritis is an inflammation of the ankle joint that causes damage to the surrounding cartilage. As the condition progresses, the articular cartilage in the ankle joint begins to slowly break down, allowing the joint ends of the bones to rub together. This results in pain and stiffness in the ankle and foot, and over time can lead to irreparable damage of the joint.
Causes of Ankle Arthritis
There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, many of which can affect the ankle joint. The three most common forms of the disease to affect the ankle and foot include:
Osteoarthritis – Osteoarthritis of the ankle is the result of wear and tear to the cartilage of the joint. As the articular cartilage wears away, the protective cushion between the ankle bones is lost, allowing the bones to rub together resulting in pain and stiffness in the affected area. While osteoarthritis can present in younger patients, it is more common among older adults. People with a family history of osteoarthritis are often more prone to develop the condition as they enter middle age.
Rheumatoid Arthritis – Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that can affect multiple joints throughout the body. It is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system begins to attack the body’s own tissues, resulting in damage to cartilage and ligaments. Rheumatoid arthritis typically first appears in the smaller joints, such as the ankle or wrist.
Post Traumatic Arthritis – Post traumatic arthritis often develops as the result of injuries to the foot or ankle. Dislocations and fractures are the most common injuries associated with post traumatic arthritis of the ankle and foot. A previously injured joint, even when properly treated, is more likely to become arthritic than an uninjured joint.
Symptoms of Ankle Arthritis
The following symptoms are commonly associated with arthritis of the ankle:
- Pain, tenderness, or stiffness in the ankle
- Stiffness or reduced motion
- Swelling of ankle
- Difficulty walking
Sprained Ankle (Stretched or Torn Ankle Ligament)
An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments supporting the ankle are stretched beyond their natural limits, often resulting in a tear in the tissue. Sprained ankles are relatively common injuries that can happen to anyone at any age. A sprain can range from mild to severe, depending on the degree of damage that occurs to the ligament. The majority of sprained ankles fall into the mild category, and will respond well to simple treatments like rest and applied ice packs. However, more severe sprains require proper medical treatment and subsequent rehabilitation. Severe sprains can weaken the ankle, making it more prone to further injuries. Repeated ankle sprains can often lead to chronic pain and instability, and can be a contributing factor in the development of arthritis in the ankle or foot.
Causes of an Sprained Ankle
Ligaments are strong bands of fibrous tissue that connect bone to bone. In the ankle, the ligaments keep the bones in their proper positions and serve to stabilize the joint. The majority of sprained ankles occur in the lateral ligaments on the outside of the ankle. This can happen when the ankle rolls outward as the foot turns inward. Though less common, a sprain can also occur in the medial ligaments of the inside of the ankle. This is the result of the ankle rolling inward as the foot turns outward.
The most common causes of ankle sprains include:
- Tripping or falling down
- Walking, running, or exercising on an uneven surface
- Participation in sports that require rapid changes in directions, or the twisting and rolling of the foot. These include, but are not limited to, soccer, football, basketball, tennis, and trail running.
Symptoms of an Sprained Ankle
The most common characteristics and symptoms of a sprained ankle include:
- Pain resulting from a foot twisting, rolling, or turning beyond its normal motions
- Patient may hear a “pop” when the foot twists or turns
- Tenderness and swelling
- Decreased range of motion
- Instability or inability to stand on the affected foot
Stress Fracture of the Ankle (Small Crack in Ankle Bone)
Stress fractures are small cracks, or micro-fractures, in one or more of the bones in the ankle, foot, or heel. Stress fractures are a type of overuse injury, and typically occur when the muscles of the leg and foot become fatigued and can no longer absorb the shock of repeated impacts. When this happens, the muscles transfer the force of impact to the bones of the foot and ankle, often leading to small cracks or fractures in the bones. Stress fractures of the ankle most commonly occur in the fibula (the outer bone of the lower leg and ankle) and the talus (the small bone in the ankle). They can also develop in the bones of the foot (the metatarsal and navicular bones) and the heel (the calcaneus bone).
Causes of Stress Fracture of the Ankle
The most common cause of stress fractures in the ankle is overuse; though that term can sometimes be misleading. Any increase in the repetitive motion of the ankle or foot can lead to the development of stress fractures. Athletes participating in running and jumping intensive sports are typically at a higher risk for stress fractures of the ankle, due to the repetitive stresses placed on the weight-bearing joints. However, even non-athletes can develop stress fractures of the ankle or foot. A change in daily exercise routines, an increase in the frequency or duration of walking or jogging, and even a change in footwear can bring on a stress fracture.
Some underlying health conditions can also contribute to a greater risk for developing stress fractures of the ankle. Excess body weight associated with obesity can place a greater strain on the joints, making them more susceptible to stress fractures. Osteoporosis, which causes a degenerative weakening of the bones, can also put someone at a heightened risk for developing stress fractures of the ankle or foot.
Symptoms of Stress Fracture of the Ankle
The following symptoms are commonly associated with stress fractures of the ankle:
- Pain develops gradually, increases with weight-bearing activity, and diminishes with rest
- Pain becomes more severe and occurs during normal daily activities
- Swelling on outside of ankle
- Tenderness to touch at site of fracture
- Possible bruising