The foot and ankle are a complex system consisting of 28 bones, 112 ligaments and 33 joints that are controlled by 34 muscles. The foot can be broken down into three anatomical parts: the hindfoot, the midfoot and the forefoot. The foot and ankle are responsible for supporting your body weight, providing you with balance and absorbing shock during movement.
Common causes of foot and ankle pain
Due to the complexities of the foot and ankle, experiencing some sort of pain can happen at any time during a person’s life. Most people experience foot or ankle pain at some point, and it is usually short-term pain.
Pain can be caused by injuries (typically short-term pain), diseases or disorders (the latter two can be chronic pain).
The most common injuries causing foot and injury pain can include:
- Tendinitis — Tendinitis is a condition caused by irritated and inflamed tendons. This can be due to an injury or overuse. Tendons can tear and may require surgery to repair.
- Bursitis — Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion and help lubricate joints. If these sacs become irritated or inflamed, it causes bursitis. Bursitis can be helped through a variety of methods. It can require surgery if the condition becomes severe enough.
- Sprains — A common ankle injury is due to sprains. A sprain happens when ligaments are pushed beyond their limits and stretch or tear. Sprains occur when the ankle is forcefully rolled out of its natural position.
- Fractures — With 28 bones in the foot and ankle, a fracture can happen easily due to an accident or injury. Fractures can range from mild to severe and cause pain and swelling.
- Plantar fasciitis — The fascia (connective tissue) along the bottom of the foot can become torn or stretched due to injury or irritation. This painful condition is called plantar fasciitis and is often experienced by those who run on treadmills or hard surfaces frequently.
Diseases and disorders that can cause foot and ankle pain can include:
- Arthritis — Arthritis occurs when the cartilage in a joint breaks down and causes bones to rub together. It is most common in those over the age of 65. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Flat foot — Having a low arch or no arch can cause pain and inflammation in the foot and ankle. If severe enough, it may require surgery to correct it.
- Gout — Gout is a form of arthritis that is caused by the buildup of uric acid creating crystals that settle in the joints. Gout in the ankle can be very painful.
Ways to relieve foot and ankle pain
Foot and ankle pain can often get better with treatment at home. Some injuries and conditions may need additional treatments. Common treatments for foot and ankle pain include:
- PRICE — To help an injury after it occurs, you can use the PRICE protocol. It involves protecting (P) the injury, resting (R) the injury to allow for healing, ice (I) or cold therapy to help with inflammation, compression (C) to help with swelling and provide support, and elevation (E) that can also help with inflammation.
- Medications — Over-the-counter NSAIDs can help with pain and inflammation. Depending on the severity of your injury or condition, your doctor may prescribe other medicines to help manage your pain and inflammation.
- Supportive footwear — Proper footwear for your activities can be beneficial in helping to protect your feet or prevent injuries from worsening.
- Braces — After an injury, your doctor or physical therapist may recommend a brace to help support your ankle. This may also help reduce pain.
- Physical therapy — Physical therapy can help you to improve your flexibility and range of motion. Physical therapy for foot and ankle pain may include exercises and stretches.
Physical therapy for foot and ankle pain
Physical therapy can be beneficial for helping ankle and foot pain and can be used as the first treatment. Physical therapists use a variety of treatments including:
- Manual therapy — Manual therapy is a hands-on treatment. A physical therapist uses their hands to help relieve tension and pain in your foot or ankle. Manual therapy includes soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilization techniques.
- Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) — IASTM is a manual therapy technique that uses specialized instruments instead of only a physical therapist’s hands to help break up scar tissue and relieve tension.
- Dry needling — Dry needling is a treatment used by certified physical therapists by placing fine, sterile needles in myofascial trigger points to help relieve pain and inflammation. It can also help improve movement.
- Electrical stimulation — Electrical stimulation can help strengthen muscles, improve circulation and relieve pain by sending an electric current through the affected area. It can be beneficial for helping tendinitis and bursitis.
- Therapeutic ultrasound — Therapeutic ultrasound can help speed up the rate of healing. It uses soundwaves that can help improve circulation and reduce inflammation in addition to healing.
- Iontophoresis — Iontophoresis can provide pain relief due to transdermal medication delivery through electrical stimulation.
- Graston Technique® — The Graston Technique is an instrument-assisted manual therapy technique performed by a certified physical therapist. It can help reduce pain and swelling.
Lattimore PT can help you find relief from your foot and ankle pain
Physical therapy can be beneficial in helping to relieve foot and ankle pain. Lattimore PT’s licensed physical therapists can design an individualized treatment plan that can help with your pain relief and help improve your strength and mobility.
Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.