Foot and Ankle Pain Relief
The ankle is a hinged joint formed by the meeting of three bones- the tibia, fibula and the talus. Its bony knobs on the side are known as the malleoli. All in all, the ankle is a complex structure. These structures provide stability for walking and standing. In addition, ligaments on the outside of the ankle provide stability. There are also tendons that attach to the ankles’ muscles.
What Causes Ankle Pain?
Ankle pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as sprain, strain, tendinitis and arthritis. Ankle sprains and strains are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries. These types of injuries can occur on both sides of the ankle joint. Typically, sudden stretching or sudden twisting causes an ankle sprain or strain. There may be pain, swelling or even a tear. Usually, an x-ray is done to rule out a fracture. Treatment for an ankle sprain or strain generally includes applying ice, getting rest and limiting the amount of weight-bearing on the ankle. Anti-inflammatory meds can reduce both pain and swelling. If it’s severe, physical therapy may be part of the rehabilitation process.
Tendinitis is a swelling of the tendon. In the ankle, it can involve the peroneal tendon, the posterior tibial tendon or the Achilles tendon. Tendinitis can result from an overuse injury, running or diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. All kinds of tendinitis typically cause inflammation, pain and tenderness. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory meds, immobilizing the area and applying ice are the first line of treatment for tendinitis. Physical therapy is also effective in the treatment of tendinitis. If the tendinitis is severe, casting may be needed.
Foot pain can be caused by three major types arthritis-osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and posttraumatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition where the cartilage gradually begins to wear away. Pain and stiffness worsen over time. It results in a painful rubbing of bone on bone. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease. It can affect the ankle and foot joints. The body’s immune cells attack the synovium covering the foot’s joints. Pain and joint deformity are common with rheumatoid arthritis.
After an injury, posttraumatic arthritis can develop in the ankle or foot. Previous fractures and dislocations are the most common conditions that can lead to posttraumatic arthritis. Like osteoarthritis, the joints begin to wear away. And it may take many years for this to occur after the injury.
Physical Therapy for Foot Pain and Ankle Pain
Physical therapists utilize a combination of therapy techniques to relieve foot pain and ankle pain. Soft tissue and joint mobilizations are done to restore muscle activation and proper joint mechanics. Manual therapy may be used to improve mobility of the ankle and foot along with reducing pain. Therapeutic exercises are targeted to the affected foot structures. Balance training may also be implemented.
Some passive modalities that physical therapists use to treat injuries to the foot and ankle include ultrasound, electrical stimulation, ice and heat therapy and massage. These treatment methods increase blood flow and circulation to enhance healing, reduce inflammation, reduce pain and improve mobility. When you first visit with your physical assessment, a full evaluation is done, goals are discussed and an individualized treatment plan is designed to target your specific needs.