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Common Foot and Ankle Injuries

Foot and ankle injury is very prevalent that many people have had them at one point or another.

While these problems are not often attributed to body movements, symptoms often develop from overuse, injury, and everyday wear and tear. Foot and ankle injuries often occur during:

  • Work-related tasks
  • Projects or chores done around the house
  • Recreational or sports activities

Common Foot Injuries

1. Lisfranc (Midfoot) Injury

When the ligaments that provide support to the midfoot are torn or when the second metatarsal bone in the midfoot is broken, a Lisfranc injury occurs. This kind of injury is often mistaken for a simple sprain, especially if it is secondary to a straightforward twist and fall. The injury was named after the French surgeon who recognised a pattern in horse soldiers who’s foot was caught in the stirrup when they fell off. However, injury to the Lisfranc joint may take months to heal and in some cases, may even require surgery.

CAUSES – This type of injury can occur after a simple twist and fall. The condition is prevalent among soccer and football players. Severe cases can be the result of direct trauma like falling from a height and can cause joint dislocations and multiple fractures.

SYMPTOMS – Common symptoms of the condition can include:

  • Swelling at the top of the foot
  • Bruising (often occurs on the top and bottom of the foot)
  • Pain that worsens when walking or standing

TREATMENT – If there are no joint dislocations and no tears in the ligament, conventional treatment will often suffice. Wearing a non-weightbearing cast (at least for 6 weeks) might be included in a nonsurgical treatment plan. Surgery is the treatment intervention when there is fracture or subluxation (abnormal positioning) of the joints. Primary goals of the surgery include realigning the joints and returning the broken bone fragments to normal position.

2. Trench Foot

Also known as nonfreezing cold injury and immersion foot, trench foot occurs when the feet is kept in cold, damp, and unsanitary conditions for prolonged periods. The condition is characterized by numbness, swelling, and pain in the foot and is believed to be caused by circulation changes brought by pressure and exposure. Trench foot may also cause blisters to develop. Left untreated, the condition may lead to gangrene.

CAUSES – Poor foot hygiene is believed to play a role in the development of the condition. Standing still in a solitary position for prolonged periods is also considered another factor as it impedes blood flow through the feet.

SYMPTOMS – Typical symptoms of trench foot include:

  • Tingling sensation
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Cold feet
  • Red blotches
  • Blanching of the skin
  • Bleeding (under the skin)
  • Numbness
  • Heavy or prickly feeling (in the foot)

TREATMENT – Patients with trench foot are advised to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Recovering fully from the condition may take 3 to 6 months. Fortunately, with early detection and treatment, trench foot can be effectively managed and amputation would be rarely required.

Common Ankle Injuries

1. Ankle Fracture

When one or more bones that make up the ankle joint is broken, it can result to ankle fracture. The condition can range from a simple break in one bone to several fractures which can force the ankle out of place (fracture-dislocation).

CAUSES – Ankle fracture can be the result of the following:

  • Rolling the ankle
  • Rotating or twisting the ankle
  • Falling or tripping
  • Impact during accidents

SYMPTOMS – Since a severe case of ankle sprain can manifest the same symptoms as that of a broken ankle, it is recommended that ankle injuries should be evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon. Telltale indicators of a broken ankle include:

  • Sudden and severe pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Deformity (especially if the ankle joint has been dislocated as well)

TREATMENT – If the ankle is stable (no broken bone is out of place), surgery will not be required. In most cases, the treatment intervention will also depend on where the bone is broken. Protecting the fracture while it heals is done through a variety of methods, from using short leg casts to high-top tennis shoes. In some cases, ankle X-rays will also be required on a regular basis to help ensure the bone fragments have not moved out of place while healing. If the ankle is unstable or the fracture is out of place, surgery might be recommended. During surgery, bone fragments will be reduced (repositioned) into their normal alignment. They will be held together by metal plates and screws that will be attached to the bone’s outer surface.

2. Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments in the ankle are stretched (and possibly torn). While considered common, ankle sprains are not always considered minor. Some people who suffer severe or repeated sprains can become predisposed to long-term weakness and joint pain.

CAUSES – Most ankle sprains occur when making rapid shifting movements while the foot is planted (i.e. getting tackled in football or playing soccer). Depending on how severely the ligament has been damaged, ankle sprains can range from mild to severe. In severe cases, the ankle may seem and feel unstable or wobbly and patients won’t be able to walk because of the pain.

SYMPTOMS – Common symptoms that signal ankle sprain include:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Feeling or hearing a snap or pop
  • Inability to weightbear

TREATMENT – In many cases the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) approach is used to treat ankle sprain. To reduce the swelling and pain, prescription or OTC pain relievers (i.e. naproxen, ibuprofen, etc.) might be prescribed to help reduce swelling and pain. Rehabilitation exercises might also be recommended to help the in the fast and proper healing. However, if the ankle still feels unstable after rehab or if the ligament has been damaged severely, surgery might be recommended to repair or reconstruct the torn ligaments.

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