What is the Ankle?
The ankle, part of the Foot and Ankle complex, is considered a “hinge joint” as it moves in only one direction. It is composed of the Talus Bone coming up from the foot, joined by the Tibia and the Fibula from the leg. When the ankle joint is forced to move in any direction other than like a hinge, ligaments are injured, bones are broken, and tendons can be damaged.
Common Injuries to the Ankle Joint
The most common injuries to the ankle are sprains. The ankle has ligaments that attach from the two leg bones (the tibia and fibula) to the foot bones (the talus and the calcaneus). If the ankle is forced to move in any direction but one, those ligaments can become torn or ruptured. Ligament injuries must be treated properly, otherwise the ankle can become loose and develop arthritis.
Other ankle injuries include ankle joint fractures involving the tibia, fibula and talus. Since bones will only heel if the fractured parts are kept still and do not move, casting and/or fixing the bones together with screws is essential.
The most challenging issue with the ankle joint is arthritis. Ankle injuries are the major cause that leads to ankle arthritis in the future.
Diagnosis and Examination
To receive a diagnosis, a qualified healthcare professional in musculoskeletal disorders will first take a thorough medical history and conduct an examination of your feet and ankles. Just before this examination, you will need to have a full set of foot and ankle x-rays. Very often a MRI will be needed to assess the extent of ligament and tendon injury, before developing a proper treatment plan.
Ankle sprains are best treated with boot walker immobilization or surgery. Since ligaments can take up to months to heal, boot walker immobilization will help ligaments heal in order to protect your ankle from becoming weak in the future. Fractures are often treated with surgical intervention, though fractures that are well aligned may only need to be casted for about two months.
Ankle arthritis can sometimes be treated with custom made ankle braces. Ankle arthroscopy can be useful to clean out an arthritic ankle. Ultimately, a patient who is disabled due to ankle joint pain is best treated by either ankle fusion or ankle replacement.