Ankle pain is an indicator that something in your ankle is not as it should be. This may be due to an injury or sometimes an undergoing condition in your ankle. There are a number of conditions that affect the ankle. Pain in the ankle is not always a symptom of a serious problem and may fade away after a while, but you should be careful because pain should be properly treated in order not to become chronic. Make sure to contact your doctor for advice.
Many ankle problems come from an injury but sometimes there is no injury involved, but rather slow progression of pain due to gradual wear-and-tear and overuse of the tendons, ligaments, muscles and/or joint cartilage. At times, foot abnormalities can be responsible for ongoing pain in the ankle. Here we will take a look at some of the conditions that are associated with ankle pain, excluding fractures, broken bones, ankle sprains and strains, dislocations and the like, since they are considered ankle injuries.
Arthritis is a term used for quite a few conditions associated with joint wear-and-tear or inflammation. Many types of arthritis are progressive conditions and involve joint cartilage (the soft tissue between the bones of the joint that is responsible for their smooth gliding over each other) loss and thus, bones rubbing against one another and causing pain and movement restriction. Actually, you may experience pain and stiffness in your ankle or you may not have any symptoms at all. Older people are more prone to developing some forms of arthritis and the problem gets worse with time, if left unattended. At one point, you may find it difficult to even walk, let alone do something involving putting more pressure on your foot. You should properly treat this condition with the help of your physician and physiotherapist. The most common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative joint disease and is the most common type of arthritis you could get. Usually, old age is one of the factors that contribute to the development of osteoarthritis, and that is why another name for it would be age-related arthritis. Although there are some exceptions, this condition usually progresses over the course of many years. In the ankle, the joint where the ankle meets the shinbone (tibia) is usually the one to get osteoarthritis. Besides pain, tenderness, swelling, stiffness and inability to bear weight are among the symptoms of ankle osteoarthritis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis can also be put among the common forms of arthritis and is an inflammatory condition of the joints, an autoimmune disease the cause of which is synovium irritation. The synovium is a connective tissue lining the inner surface of capsules of synovial joints and tendon sheath that serves as a lubricant, making the joint easier to move. According to various sources, a large number of people who have rheumatoid arthritis start showing symptoms in the ankle over the course of the disease and in many, the first signs of the condition are ankle symptoms. There are debates over what exactly triggers rheumatoid arthritis and it is still somewhat unclear whether there may be a genetic reason involved — that is, if some people are prone to developing the disease due to family heredity (when you genetically “inherit” a disease). Some speculate that there has to be something, perhaps a chemical “initiator” that triggers the condition in those people who are likely to develop it because of their heritage.
- Gout is another painful inflammatory form of arthritis (well, aren’t they all?), a joint condition that does not typically occur in the ankle but it may attack there as well. The most common spots that are affected are the ends of the limbs such as the toes, knees and fingers. The condition is not associated with old age as even very young adults aged 20 can suffer from a gout attack. The reasons lie elsewhere. The condition is caused by uric acid crystals being deposited in the joints, making them inflamed and painful. If you are obese, have high blood pressure and/or diabetes or kidney problems, you are more likely to get gout. Genetics also play a part here, as well as sex – surveys show that between 20 and 80 percent of people who suffer from gout attacks have a family history of the disease and women are less likely to develop it, although some may experience a gout attack before menopause. However, it is more common in men between 40 and 50 years of age. Excruciating pain is just one of the symptoms of a gout attack. Others include redness and swelling over and around the joint, a burning sensation and tenderness. Gout attacks usually occur at night but can strike at any given time. It is not always easy to predict their incidence.
Flat feet (fallen arches)
If you have this problem – flat feet or “fallen arches”, this means that your feet press almost completely flat against the ground and your arches – which comprise of the tarsal and metatarsal bones, are strengthened by ligaments and tendons and aid the foot to support your body’s weight when you are standing – are low or completely absent. The foot arch is located in the middle of your foot and is commonly raised off the ground (like an arch), whereas the other parts of your foot are pressed against the ground. Flat feet are usually hereditary – for example, if your mother and/or father have fallen arches, you are likely to have them as well. When you are a kid, your arches are not always developed and clearly visible, but they usually appear later, when you are older. However, they may not appear at all. There are many examples of people with flat feet who show no symptoms, that is, no pain in the ankle, hip, knee or back; no stiffness, numbness or weakness, but there are many who do. Along with the inherited tendency, flat feet may come from some nerve or muscle conditions (for example muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy) or foot bone problems (if they do not properly form while still in the mother’s womb). Factors that contribute to having flat feet are obesity, some accompanying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, ageing or for example wearing uncomfortable shoes that do not provide enough support to the heel. People with fallen arches tend to roll their foot inwards (this is called overpronation) when they walk and this may lead to an injury. In addition, these people may find out that their shoes wear out quickly. If you have no pain in your ankles or the other parts of your body that we mentioned earlier, you do not overpronate and you have no underlying health problems. However, you should consider buying proper footwear (contact your doctor for advice first), losing some weight if you need to (as this will minimize damage and injury to connective tissue), and doing some stretching exercises so that you may prevent any possible future foot rotations.
As you can see, ankle pain is not only a symptom of an injury, but may be an indicator of a number of other different conditions. Feeling any type of pain is never a good sign and whichever the cause, i keep in mind that you should not undergo self-treatment without having consulted your doctor first so as to certify the exact nature of your problem. Ankle pain is not always a symptom of something severe, but make sure to let your ankle rest and give it the proper treatment it needs because it is crucial in order to ensure fast healing and avoid complications, as well as to decrease the possibility of reoccurrence of the problem.