The foot and ankle are solid, complex mechanical structures joined together by an extensive network of ligaments, muscles and tendons which work together to provide firm support and mobility to the body. 3 bones make up the ankle joint, which facilitate up and down movement. The foot consists of 28 bones and over 30 joints that allow for a wide range of movement. Ligaments connect the bones and keep joints in place, whereas muscles and tendons provide joint support and movement support.
Foot and ankle injuries are among the most frequently occurring musculoskeletal injuries, at times requiring surgery. Here are common conditions affecting the foot and ankle, and the treatment options available.
Common Foot & Ankle Injuries
Often, foot and ankle injuries happen due to impact during sports, recreational activities and accidental falls. Most minor injuries such as cuts and bruises heal on their own, but certain injuries may lead to serious conditions that can affect foot and ankle function in the long run. Common injuries include:
Fractures can occur in the ankle or to the bones in the feet. Fractures in the foot or ankle may cause difficulty in weight bearing and may cause you to be unable to walk. If the bone is displaced from its original position, surgery may be required.
Symptoms of fracture in the foot or ankle include pain, tenderness, swelling, deformity at the area of the fracture and not being able to apply any weight to the injured foot. For cases where the broken bones are not displaced and a stress x-ray confirms that the injury area is stable, treatment usually requires immobilisation with cast support until the bone fragments heal, which can take up to several months. Surgery may be required if the foot or ankle is unstable or if the fracture is displaced. Consult with your doctor to understand the treatment options available.
Arthritis is a condition where inflammation occurs in one or more joints. In the foot and ankle, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are common. Osteoarthritis is where the protective cushion between the joints (cartilage) can wear out due to ageing or wear and tear. Genetic factors, joint instability, and injury may also contribute to osteoarthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease whereby the immune system attacks the own tissues. Immune cells attack the synovium covering the joint, causing swelling. Over time, the swollen synovium invades and damages the surrounding bone, cartilage, ligaments and tendons, possibly resulting in severe joint deformity and losing the ability to walk. Swollen, inflamed synovium and joint deformity are common signs for rheumatoid arthritis.
In general, symptoms of arthritis in the foot and ankle area include pain, stiffness, limited movement, swelling, and difficulty walking.