Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Injuries and Treatment
Staying on top of your foot and ankle health is critical for maintaining mobility throughout your life. If you have an injury, or if you’re experiencing foot or ankle pain, seeking proper treatment is very important.
Every day, patients of all ages and levels of activity trust the orthopedics and sports medicine services at Memorial Hermann to provide the latest treatments and rehabilitation for everything from sprains and fractures to more serious conditions of the foot and ankle.
Common Types of Foot and Ankle Injuries
It doesn’t matter if you’re a weekend warrior or a professional athlete, foot and ankle injuries can happen to anyone. At Memorial Hermann, our affiliated orthopedic specialists see a myriad of injuries, but here are a few of the most common foot and ankle issues we treat:
Often occurring during a simple twist and fall, a Lisfranc injury can include strains, tears and fractures of any of the ligaments or bones that connect the midfoot to the forefoot. While sometimes mistaken for simple sprains, Lisfranc injuries can be serious and may take months to heal. Some may even require surgery.
Achilles Tendon Injuries
The Achilles Tendon is the largest tendon in the body, connecting the calf muscle to the heel bone. It’s incredibly important for movement and can withstand great stresses from running, jumping and climbing, but it is still prone to injury. Achilles Tendinitis – an injury seen in patients of all activity levels – is a common repetitive stress injury where the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed. This can make normal daily activities extremely painful, and attempts to “play through the pain” can result in more severe injuries, such as ruptures or tears.
Approximately two million people are treated for plantar fasciitis each year, and not just athletes. This condition involves inflammation or damage to the plantar fascia – a long, thin ligament on the bottom of the foot that connects the heel to the forefoot and supports the arch. Plantar fasciitis has many potential causes, including obesity, tight calf muscles, high arches and repetitive impact from running and other activities. The good news is, more than 90 percent of patients improve within 10 months, often as a result of treatments including rest, stretching and wearing supportive shoes or orthotics.
Common among athletes, turf toe is a sprain of the main joint of the big toe, typically from hyperextension. Turf toe tends to happen on sports fields where artificial turf has less “give” than grass, and injuries are divided into three grades, from mild to severe. Grade 1 injuries can be treated with rest and ice, while Grade 3 may require several weeks of immobilization and a walking boot to fully heal.
An incredibly common injury, an ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments that support and stabilize the ankle are twisted and stretched beyond their limits, resulting in a tear and intense pain and swelling. Ankle sprains are classified from Grade 1 (mild) to Grade 3 (severe) depending on how completely the ligaments are torn. A mild sprain can be treated with rest and ice, while severe sprains can lead to ankle instability and may require surgery and/or a short leg cast.
Signs and Symptoms of Foot and Ankle Injuries
Many foot and ankle injuries, such as sprains and fractures, are a result of direct trauma while playing sports or participating in other physical activities. Nagging pain, however, may be a sign of an unnoticed injury. Often brushed aside as normal “aches and pains,” this type of ongoing discomfort, if left untreated, can result in severe injuries or disorders that may require extensive surgery – or lead to a permanent disability.
If you feel your foot or ankle pain is affecting your daily routine, it’s a good idea to get checked by a trained orthopedic surgeon, especially if you notice any of the following warning signs:
- Painful swelling and/or bruising
- Swelling that does not subside after RICE treatment (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
- Pain that worsens when standing, walking or attempting to push off the affected foot
- Changes in your gait
- Pain after a long period of rest, such as a car ride or getting out of bed in the morning
Treatment Options for Foot and Ankle Injuries
Some of the common treatments are listed below:
Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation
At Memorial Hermann, our affiliated orthopedic surgeons understand and believe that the proper course of treatment isn’t always surgical.
“A majority of problems we treat respond well to nonoperative methods,” says Dr. Michael Greaser, an orthopedic surgeon and foot and ankle sports injury specialist affiliated with Memorial Hermann. “Physical therapy is critical in rehabbing from any sports injury. We’ll refer you to a therapist that will optimize your rehab, so you can get back to your desired level of activity as soon as possible.”
At Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute, we’re able to provide advanced physical therapy and specialty care to all patients – athletes and non-athletes alike. Our team of affiliated physicians, therapists and sports performance specialists is available at five locations across the Greater Houston area, providing convenient rehabilitation options for foot and ankle injuries.
Foot & Ankle Surgery
For injuries that are especially severe or difficult to treat with physical therapy, your doctor may recommend surgery. One of the most common types of surgery for foot and ankle injuries is arthroscopic surgery, which involves inserting a small fiber-optic camera (called an arthroscope) into the ankle joint, allowing your surgeon to diagnose and more effectively treat your injury..
Ankle arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that requires only a few small incisions, and can rapidly decrease recovery time while minimizing the risk of complications or infection. It is typically used to treat a large number of issues, some of which include:
- Ankle arthritis
- Ankle fractures
- Ankle instability
- Infection of the ankle joint
- Osteochondral defects (OCD)
What Should I Do If I Have Foot or Ankle Pain?
Whether you have a severe sprain, a fracture or just nagging pain, it’s always best to get it checked out by a trained orthopedic surgeon who has the resources and ability to properly diagnose your condition.
Memorial Hermann makes finding an orthopedic or sports medicine specialist in your area easy. Just use our online scheduling tool to find the location that’s most convenient for you.