The foot and ankle are incredibly tough and durable joints. We spend our entire lives standing, walking, running and jumping on them and many of us won’t experience any foot pain at all. Foot pain is usually a result of footwear, joint sprains or injuries through accidents or sports, excessive repetitive stress, or referral from nerves in the spine.
The majority of sports people and athletes will have twisted or sprained their ankle at least once in their careers. Rapidly changing direction with the foot planted on the floor is often a cause for ankle sprain, as well as tripping on stairs or pavement edges. Ankle and foot pain can be very limiting and have a detrimental compensatory effect elsewhere in the body. It is usually easy to treat with osteopathic techniques.
Your osteopath will be able to help determine the cause of your pain, by questioning you about the onset of the symptoms and any previous history. Your osteopath will then examine your ankle and consider this in relation to the rest of your body to establish a biomechanical link, before formulating a treatment plan.
Causes and symptoms of foot & ankle pain can include:
- dull ache on the middle and outer ankle,
- pain pulling the toes up or pointing the toes down,
- tripping on pavements/stairs/doorways,
- difficulty going up or down stairs,
- tight calf muscles,
- pain between the toes,
- sharp or needle like pain under the foot during first steps in the morning,
- pins and needles or numbness in the toes or feet,
- cramping in the toes or feet.
Common conditions include:
- Sprained ankle- usually affecting the front ligament in the ankle, following a “rolled ankle” or inversion strain
- Fracture of the fibula or tibia- traumatic origin
- Dislocated ankle- where the bones move out of alignment at the joint
- Tendonitis- inflammation of the tendon of muscles where they attach to bone
- Muscle or tendon tear- e.g. Achilles Tendon damage
- Heel pain (calcaneal spur)- bony growth on the underside of the heel bone
- Plantar Fasciitis (sometimes known as policeman’s heel)- discomfort affecting the sole of the foot
- Bunions- deviation of the big toe. This is often a familial trait.
- Osteoarthrits- wear and tear of particular joints
- Gout- recurrent acute inflammatory arthritis, often of the big toe
- Dropped arches
- Metatarsalgia- pain in the fore foot caused by inflammation due to bursitis or a neuroma.
Treatment and Management:
Foot and Ankle problems can be effectively diagnosed and treated here at Wallington Osteopaths.
The joints of the feet and ankles are very strong and so treatment techniques will likely include osteopathic mobilisation and sometimes manipulation to help increase mobility.
Soft and deep tissue techniques will be used to address muscle strains and imbalances in the calves, shin and feet muscles.
Muscle contraction and relaxation techniques may be used to over-ride muscle strains and spasms deep within muscle groups. Medical acupuncture and ultrasound may also be used to reduce swelling and improve your healing rate.
Specific strengthening and stretching exercises may also be given to address above-mentioned imbalances in tightness and weakness. Balance related exercises may be required to rehab the joint back to proper function and stability if ligament injury is identified.
For traumatic injuries causing lateral ankle pain, it may be sensible to rule out serious damage like fracture or dislocation. A rolled or sprained ankle can cause significant pain, bruising and swelling, even if it is only the ligaments that are damaged, so a trip to A & E for x-ray is sensible.
For soft tissue injuries (muscles, tendons, and ligaments), your osteopath will be able to carry out a series of tests to determine the tissue responsible for your discomfort. Occasionally we may ask you to see your GP to get a referral for MRI scan.