At Texas Foot Specialists, we often find that it takes patients a while to realize they have a chronic ankle issue. They may experience pain in the lower leg that they don’t connect with an ankle problem. Their ankle may be achy and swollen at times. It may be tender to the touch. Stability can also be compromised: the ankle turns easily, especially on uneven surfaces or when walking or running. The ankle may also feel weak and like it’s going to give out at any moment.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important that you get your ankle examined by one of our podiatrists, Dr. Gregory Mangum or Dr. Bruce Miller. Left untreated, chronic ankle discomfort will only get worse and could result in additional sprains and injuries as the ligaments get repeatedly stretched out.
When you meet with the foot doctor, he will examine your ankle and look for areas of tenderness and swelling. He will also ask about previous ankle sprains and injuries. The most common cause of chronic ankle pain and instability is one or more past ankle injuries that have not been fully rehabilitated. Other possible causes include:
- Scar tissue formation in the ankle from an old break or sprain
- Arthritis in the ankle joint
- An undiagnosed fracture in one of the ankle joint bones
- Joint or tendon inflammation
- Nerve damage
X-rays and other imaging studies will help the podiatrist track down the specific cause of your ankle discomfort.
The foot doctor may recommend the temporary use of prescription or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation and swelling. Treatment options may include:
- Bracing or other types of ankle support to prevent the ankle from turning
- Immobilization if the cause of the pain is a fracture—this will allow the bone to heal
- Physical therapy aimed at retraining your muscles, tightening the ligaments and even giving specific suggestions for protecting your ankle for the sports and leisure activities you do regularly
- Surgery, if noninvasive treatments are not working, to repair or reconstruct damaged ligaments