If you think only those who are involved in intense sports are at risk for foot and ankle injury, think again!
If you are like most people, chances are you’ve experienced foot and ankle injury (minor or otherwise) at one point in your life or another.
While most of the movements you do will not cause injuries, symptoms are sometimes attributed to overuse and everyday wear and tear.
In most cases, foot and ankle injuries are most likely to occur during:
- Work-related chores
- Recreational or sports activities
- Projects or chores done around the house
Dancers, gymnasts, basketball and soccer players have higher risks of foot and ankle injuries compared to those who are not involved in the same competitive and challenging fields.
On the other hand, loss of bone strength (osteopenia) and muscle mass often predisposes older adults to fractures and injuries. Problems with balance and vision will also increase injury risks.
Foot and ankle injury in children often occurs during play, sports, or falls. Children with bone injuries near a joint will need thorough evaluation as the growth plate (physis) might be compromised.
In most cases, minor foot and ankle injuries will respond well to home treatments. However, acute injuries secondary to fall, twisting, jamming, bending, direct blows, etc. will need medical attention. This is especially true when swelling and bruising occurs.
Other conditions that will require medical attention are the following:
Puncture wounds – puncture wounds are often caused by sharp objects like tacks, knives, needles, and nails, to name a few. Left unattended, puncture wounds can lead to infections.
Sprains – if your sprain persists, you might be suffering from a condition known as osteochondritis dissecans. Check with your doctor right away so you will be given appropriate treatment.
Contusions – in the event of ankle injuries, bruising or contusions will manifest. Get in touch with your doctor to play safe and to alleviate any pain you might experience.
Strains – pulled muscles of both the foot and the ankle can be subjected to strains and sometimes in worse case scenarios, ruptures.
Fortunately, there are plenty of diverse options when it comes to the treatment of foot and ankle injuries—special shoes (with orthotic devices), medicine, first aid measures (cast, splint, or brace), and physical therapy. In some cases however, surgery might be required.
Choice of treatment will depend on the following:
- When your injury happened
- Your injury’s severity, type, and location
- Your overall health condition
- Your activities (hobbies, work, sports, etc.)
- Your age
If the foot and ankle injury is minor, the following treatment measures will effectively reduce swelling and stiffness and alleviate the pain:
- Gently rub or massage the area to encourage blood flow and reduce the pain. However, refrain from massaging the injured area if it is painful.
- To help ensure the swelling does not escalate, avoid activities that will increase swelling like hot packs, alcoholic beverages, hot showers, and hot tubs (at least for the first 48 hours).
- Once the swelling is gone, consider doing gentle exercises to help restore your flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between cold and heat treatments.
- Gentle MSA (movement, strength, and alternate) exercises are also recommended to help hasten healing.
Movement. After an injury, resuming a full range of motion should be a top priority. After resting the injured area for 24 to 48 hours, try to gradually move it, stopping only when it causes pain. Gentle stretches will help prevent the formation of scar tissues that might further decrease movement.
Strength. Once the swelling is gone and you have successfully restored movement, your next goal should be to strengthen the injured area.
Alternate activities. While the injury is healing, make sure you incorporate exercises or activities in your daily routine. This is especially crucial the first few days after the injury happened. However, make sure your chosen activities will not put any strain on the injured area. In case you feel pain during an activity, stop right away and do other pain-free exercises instead.