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Your ankle helps to balance and stabilize your body. It’s made up of bones that are supported with muscles and ligaments.
Ankle disorders can result from damage to bone, muscle, or soft tissue. Common ankle disorders include:
The ankle is the most frequently injured joint in the body. According to research published by the Walter Reed Medical Center, more than 20,000 ankle sprains occur each day in the United States.
The causes of ankle disorders vary, and can include running, jumping, and overuse. Other common causes of ankle sprains and fractures include:
Different types of arthritis (inflammation of joints and tissues) can also affect the foot and ankle:
The symptoms of ankle disorders will vary based on the specific type of injury. Common symptoms include:
Tendonitis and Achilles tendonitis may produce similar symptoms, but can be accompanied by:
To diagnose an ankle disorder, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, examine your ankle and foot, and ask about any recent injuries.
To look for bone fractures or tendon tears, imaging tests will be needed. These tests include:
Treatment will depend on your condition and your symptoms. Treatments can include nonsurgical and surgical options. Nonsurgical options involve:
Severe fractures or ruptured tendons may require surgical treatment. Surgical procedures used to treat ankle disorders include:
If you have an ankle disorder, your long-term outlook will depend on the severity of your disorder and the amount of damage to the ankle. It will also depend on whether or not you need surgery.
Ankle sprains are quite common and generally heal within six weeks. Similar outcomes can be expected if you have an ankle fracture and don’t require surgery.
If your ankle disorder requires surgery, full recovery may take several weeks or months. You may also need physical therapy to help strengthen your ankle. Physical therapy may last as long as 12 months.
Although surgery for most ankle disorders can be helpful for improving mobility, all surgical procedures carry potential risks like the potential for infection and nerve damage.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the most common complication is moderate to severe pain following surgery.
You can prevent ankle disorders by maintaining good physical fitness, strength, and flexibility. Regular exercise is crucial for building strong bones and maintaining good balance. Other behaviors that can prevent ankle disorders include:
Most ankle injuries can be avoided by taking the proper precautions before strenuous exercise. If you do feel unusual pain in your ankle during physical activity, or suspect an injury, contact your doctor immediately.
Written by: Darla Burke
Medically reviewed on: Aug 29, 2016: William Morrison, MD
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