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Over 5 million visits are made to a physician office each year due to foot and ankle problems. Whether a simple slip and fall accident, or a sports injury, one of the most common problems seen in Emergency Rooms is an ankle injury which can result in a sprain, a fracture, or both. These should be evaluated by a trained foot and ankle specialist. Treatments may include rest, ice, compression, elevation, and bracing. In some cases, surgery may be required. Typical healing time is about 6 weeks depending on the injury.
A foot and ankle contain 26 bones, each of which impact the body differently if fractured or broken. In every case, an injury as serious as a fracture will mean inability to bear weight and severely affect mobility. It may be painful, offset balance, put increased pressure on the other leg/joints, and prohibit exercise. If not addressed quickly, a collapsed bone, severed ligament, or permanent deformity may develop. Swelling is a signal for medical attention even if a fracture is not present. Possible injuries to the area may result in pain, tenderness, stiffness, discolored skin, bruising, or inability to bear weight.
Conservative treatment is generally the first recommendation, whether it involves physical therapy, anti-inflammatories (oral or topical), or injections (steroids or joint fluid replacements). Proper calf stretching is a useful method to relieve pain and keep the foot and ankle healthy and stable. The burden of our weight is carried on the feet so it’s important to keep a healthy body mass index (BMI). Surgery is a last option and can be minimally invasive. Foot and ankle surgeries include fusions and replacements.
Conditions such as arthritis are inevitable if both your parents had this and unfortunately, we inherit bad genes as well as the good ones. Foot or ankle deformities that aren’t painful and not bothersome don’t require surgery. Some conditions such as bunions and hammertoes are alleviated by non-invasive methods or minimally invasive surgery. Proper fitting footwear is a good rule to follow and orthotics may be helpful.
Treatments for the foot and ankle are varied. For breaks or fractures, treatment may be as straightforward as a cast or brace if treated promptly. For serious breaks or those ignored for a period of time, surgery may be necessary to offset the shift in the foot and ankle structure. Stress fractures may require protective footgear for a few months. When a fracture is not present, treatment will depend on the cause.
There is no need to suffer with foot pain, and in fact, ignoring treatment may exacerbate the situation.