Foot & Ankle Pain

At Banner Health, our expert orthopedic team applies the latest research and technological advances for treating all orthopedic issues, including foot and ankle problems. We can work with you to design a treatment plan and get you back on your feet.

What Causes Foot and Ankle Pain?

Foot and ankle pain can be caused by degeneration of the cartilage, soft tissue or bones in the ankle or foot. Pain can also be caused by injury or from a medical condition, such as arthritis.

Because the feet and ankles are put under constant pressure they can be susceptible to several different stress factors. A problem with the ankles and feet often leads to inflammation, pain and limited movement and flexibility.

If left untreated or mistreated, ankle and foot problems can lead to chronic pain and long-term complications. It is highly recommended to seek prompt and appropriate treatment for pain, swelling of severe stiffness in the ankles and feet.

Common Ankle and Foot Conditions

Most often, pain in the ankle and foot is the result of an injury, but it can also be the result of a medical condition. Conditions that can affect the foot and ankle include:

Osteoarthritis – Damage and wear to the hard, slippery cartilage that covers the end of bones that form a joint.

Gout – Another form of arthritis caused by excess uric acid in the bloodstream, characterized by sudden and severe pain.

Nerve Damage – Pressure or damage of nerves can lead to pain and can affect the brain’s ability to communicate with muscles.

Blocked Blood Vessels – A condition stemming from a hard substance, known as plaque, that builds up inside the artery walls, limiting or blocking blood flow.

Joint Infection – Also known as septic arthritis. This is a condition where bacteria gets into a joint and causes rapid cartilage and bone deterioration and severe pain.

Because the foot is more complex, there are several other conditions that could be causing pain there. These conditions include:

  • Corns
  • Calluses
  • Bunions
  • Warts
  • Ingrown toenails
  • A reaction to medication, leading to swelling
  • Morton’s neuroma, a thickening of tissue around the nerves and between the toes
  • Hammertoe
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Haglund’s deformity, a bony enlargement on the back of the heel
  • Peripheral arterial disease

Ankle and Foot Injuries

Ankle and foot pain could also be the result of a recent or a mild or more severe injury. Some common injuries to the foot and ankle include:

  • Ankle sprain
  • Stress fracture of the foot
  • Fracture to the ankle
  • Achilles tendonitis or tear
  • Ligament injury

Another common injury to the foot is plantar fasciitis, where the band of tissue in the arch of the foot is overstretched, causing inflammation and sharp pain in the heel of the foot.

Foot and Ankle treatment

Mild conditions or injuries can be managed at home with rest, ice compression and elevation of the foot and ankle. Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication can ease symptoms and allow for healing. Mild ankle sprains can be treated with a wrap or splint to stabilize the ankle.

Medical treatment

More severe symptoms or injuries such as chronic pain or bone fractures may require medical treatment. For cases like these, one of our orthopedic specialists will work with you to develop a treatment plan. The first step will be a diagnosis of the root cause of pain. This is most often determined through an examination and tests that may include:

  • X-rays
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Computed Tomography (CT scans)
  • Ultrasounds

Non-Surgical Treatment

Many foot and ankle conditions and injuries can be treated without the need for a surgical procedure. Your orthopedic specialist will explore all other options before choosing to operate. Non-surgical treatment may include:

  • Bracing, casting or splinting the affected area
  • Using support aids like crutches
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Steroidal injection
  • Building a lifestyle modification plan

Foot and Ankle Surgery

If none of the non-surgical treatments are easing symptoms or pain, a surgical procedure may be needed. Common procedures to ease pain in the ankle and foot include:

Achilles Tendon Repair – A procedure where an incision is made to the calf and the tendon is stitched back together.

Limb Salvage – A removal of damaged or diseased bone is replaces with metal implants or bone grafts.

Ankle Replacement Surgery – A joint replacement procedure where the three bones that make up the ankle joint are replaced with metal or plastic implants.

Foot or Ankle Reconstruction – This is a restorative operation that involves the repair or transfer tendons, implant a prosthetic joint, or manipulate a bone by cutting, grafting or fusing a damaged area.

Foot and Ankle Surgery Recovery

Each injury and subsequent procedure is different and several factors can contribute to the timetable for recovery. Generally, recovery from a procedure will take at least six weeks. A torn ligament or tendon may take much longer.

Expect regular check-ups to monitor healing and your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy in the later stages of healing. With proper care and regular therapy, in most cases, a full recovery can be made within a few months.