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A Guide to Ankle Injuries and Rehabilitation

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Updated July 02, 2008

The ankle joint is medically known as the talocrural joint. It is formed by three bones: the tibia, fibula, and talus that are supported by strong ligaments. As the ankles support the weight of the entire body, ankle injuries are very common. Each year, approximately 2 million patients are treated for ankle injuries. Use this resource to learn about ankle anatomy, injuries, and rehabilitation.

Anatomy
Ligaments of the Ankle Joint: Ankle sprains comprise one of the most common injuries of the ankle. If you have sustained an ankle sprain, knowing what ligaments are involved can help in a better understanding of your injury. Review your anatomy here!

Common Ankle Injuries
Ankle Sprain: A sprained ankle results when the ligaments of the ankle joint are stretched past their normal range. This results in ligamentous tears that can vary between small rips to complete disruption of the ligament. Most ankle sprains occur during sport events that include activities such as running, jumping, or walking. Initial symptoms of a sprained ankle include: pain, tenderness to touch, swelling, bruising, inability to walk or stand, and joint stiffness.
Achilles Tendonitis: The Achilles tendon is the large tendon located on the back of the heel. It is formed by the insertion of the calf muscle onto the heal bone. Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury, that occurs when repetitive use of this tendon results in little tears throughout the tissue. Common activities/conditions that result in Achilles tendonitis include: running, jumping, tight calf muscles, and excessively flat feet.
Arthritis: Both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis can affect the ankle joint. Although they are different disorders, each can result in significant discomfort and pain during activity and rest.
Stress Fractures: A stress fracture is another type of overuse injury. It occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock. Eventually, the fatigued muscle transfers the overload of stress to the bone causing a tiny crack. This crack is called a stress fracture.

Ankle Rehabilitation
Disorders of the ankle require a comprehensive rehabilitation program including rest, stretching, and strengthening in order to make a full recovery. Each step plays an important role in regaining function after an injury. Learn how to rehab your ankle.
Ankle First Aid: RICE is the first aid acronym used for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It is the initial step to take after sustaining an ankle injury. The combination of RICE helps reduce inflammation that occurs after acute injury. It is important to remember that the earlier this treatment is put into place, the more effective it is.
Ankle Stretching Exercises: Early stretching after sustaining an ankle injury is an important step in the rehabilitation process. With the prolonged period of rest that is required after suffering an ankle injury, the muscles around the joint often become shortened and tight. This results in a decreased amount of available motion around the ankle joint. To prevent further injury, it is important to begin gentle stretches of your injured ankle as soon as approved by your physician. Ankle Strengthening Exercises: Strong ankles are important for preventing as well as recovering from ankle sprains, strains, and fractures. Powerful muscles help stabilize the ankle and protect the ligaments from injuries. As always you should discuss with your physician prior to starting any exercise regimen.

Source:
Journal of Athletic Training, Rehabilitation of the Ankle After Acute Sprain or Chronic Instability, 2002 Oct–Dec; 37(4): 413–429.

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