Is ankle pain making daily life a struggle, or keeping you from pursuing activities and sports you once enjoyed?
Trust us: we’ve heard this one a lot.
Ankles—both the joint itself and the structures in the surrounding area—are among the most frequently injured spots in the entire body.
And it’s not all sprains, either. Fractures. Tendinitis. Arthritis. Chronic weakness and instability. Nerve compression. We see it all!
Fortunately, you’ve got a great team of multidisciplinary specialists here at McDowell Orthopedics and Podiatry Group to help you—no matter what’s causing your discomfort.
Exploring Painful Ankle Conditions
Let’s explore some of these common ankle pain conditions a little more closely:
- Ankle sprain. An ankle sprain is simply painful stretching and/or tearing in any (or several) of the various ligaments that stabilize and hold the bones of the ankle joint together. They range in severity from mild pain and swelling to serious bruising, instability, and restricted motion.
- Ankle instability. A history of ankle sprains, or even one sprain that never fully heals correctly, can lead to long-term weakness and instability in the ligaments that support your ankle. This could leave you feeling like your ankles are frequently about to buckle or give way, and greatly increase your risk of subsequent sprains.
- Ankle fractures. A serious ankle injury could result in a partial or even complete break of one of the bones in or near the ankle joint. Occasionally, people mistake a broken ankle for a bad sprain since the symptoms can overlap. Unfortunately, this can lead to complications with treatment, since ankle fractures can require very different treatment protocols.
- Ankle arthritis. Although many different types of arthritis can affect the ankles (including rheumatoid arthritis and gout), the most common is the “wear and tear” of osteoarthritis, which causes the cartilage in the joint to deteriorate over time. In addition to pain, this can further lead to deformity, reduced range of motion, and difficulty walking.
- Nerve compression. The nerves that extend down to your feet and toes must pass through narrow spaces in the ankle between bone, muscle, ligament, and other tissues—including the tarsal tunnel, which is like the foot’s version of the carpal tunnel of the wrist. Inflammation, disease, or injury may cause the space to collapse, pinching the nerve and causing pain, tingling, and numbness.
Ankle Pain Needs Immediate Treatment
The unfortunate reality is that many people don’t take their ankle pain seriously until things really start to hurt—or they have an even more serious injury. “Walk it off,” you might be told.
It is true that mild ankle pain can often be treated conservatively. However, even relatively mild or moderate sprains can lead to lasting repercussions—post-traumatic arthritis, chronic instability, etc.—if they are not given the opportunity to heal properly.
Likewise, untreated nerve compression can cause permanent damage if not addressed promptly. That tingling and burning you’re currently trying to ignore might become a lot harder to ignore, for a lot longer, if you don’t take care of it.
Furthermore, because so many different types of conditions can produce very similar symptoms—but require very different treatment protocols—getting in to see a specialist quickly for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan is of paramount importance.
And of course, the general takeaway about foot and ankle pain always applies: pain isn’t normal. Effective treatment options are available. You should never let pain start to take control of your life when you could be doing something about it!
Orthopedist or Podiatrist? You Don’t Have to Choose!
When it comes to choosing a specialist for your ankle pain, most people decide between seeing a podiatrist or seeing an orthopedist. And it’s not necessarily an easy choice!
Let’s quickly summarize the difference.
A podiatrist specializes in comprehensive care of the feet and ankles—conservative and surgical. An orthopedist, by contrast, is a specialist in musculoskeletal issues—essentially, pain that relates to bones, muscles, joints, and connective tissues.
As a result, there’s a lot of overlap between the two disciplines when it comes to foot and ankle problems in general, and ankle problems in particular.
While a podiatrist is the obvious choice for, say, fungal toenails and an orthopedist is the one you want for tennis elbow or neck pain, the best choice for an ankle problem might depend on the exact nature of the injury—as well as the training, skill, and sub-specialties of the doctor!
(And unfortunately, we’ve met a fair number of podiatrists and orthopedists in our time who like to arrogantly claim that their medical specialty is always the better option than the other one, no matter what, without considering all the facts.)
Fortunately, at McDowell Orthopedics and Podiatry Group, you don’t have to choose. Our team includes experts in both fields, who regularly consult with one another about the best treatment options and approaches for different kinds of ankle conditions and injuries.
Step one: We get you an accurate diagnosis. In addition to a physical examination and a time for asking questions, we’ll take any further diagnostic images or tests we need to run so that we can be totally sure what part of the ankle has been injured, precisely where the damage is located, and how serious it is.
Step two: Devise an effective treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and goals.
And whether your treatment requires physical therapy, nerve decompression, ligament or cartilage repair, arthroscopic surgery, laser therapy, or other advanced procedures, our team will have a specialist with advanced training ready to provide the care you need.
So don’t let ankle pain get in the way of living to the fullest—or give it the opportunity to worsen into a more serious problem! Trust the ankle experts at McDowell Orthopedics and Podiatry Group to keep you up and active. You can schedule an appointment at our Carmichael office at the St. George Medical Center by calling (916) 961-3434.