Foot and Ankle Injuries Overview
Your feet and ankles work hard every day, but you may not notice how important they are — until they start hurting. The structures of the foot and ankle are highly complex. If you fall or twist in just the wrong way, or wear the wrong shoes for an extended period of time, you may need medical or surgical treatment to get back on your feet. In some cases, underlying factors such as arthritis, diabetes or inherited deformities may cause an injury or make it worse.
At MedStar Health, our podiatric surgeons treat a range of foot and ankle conditions, including:
- Fractures and dislocations of the foot and ankle may be treated by using a cast for six to eight weeks. In cases with extensive damage, a surgeon may repair the fracture surgically using plates, metal, or absorbable screws, pins, staples, or tension bands to hold the bones in place.
- Ankle sprain injuries are often treated with RICE (e.g., rest, ice, compression, and elevation) and over-the-counter medicine. In severe cases, surgery may be required to repair the ligaments.
- Achilles tendon ruptures may occur if the Achilles tendon is overstretched or torn and you feel a snapping or popping sensation in your heel. Treatment may include having surgery to repair the tendon and/or wearing a cast.
- Foreign body removal (such as glass fragments, metal or plastic objects) may require special care to prevent infection.
- Talar dome lesions happen when the cartilage in the ankle is damaged. Treatment may involve arthroscopic removal of damaged cartilage, and in some cases, replacement or transplant of bone and cartilage.
- Foot and ankle arthritis may be caused by osteoarthritis (due to age, wear-and-tear, or a previous joint-related injury) or rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune condition affecting joints throughout the body). Arthritis may be treated with a conservative approach including medications, injections, physical therapy, and orthotics. In some cases, arthroscopic surgery or artificial joint replacement surgery may be needed.
Hallux limitus/rigidus are types of foot arthritis that affect the big toe joint, causing limited ability to move your big toe up or down (limitus) or loss of movement of the big toe (rigidus). The condition may be treated with medications, injections, physical therapy and orthotics, or with reconstructive foot surgery.
Planning and Recovery
During your appointment, your doctor will examine your injury and may request an X-ray image of your foot/ankle for signs of fracture or other abnormalities. Treatment may include medication, supportive footwear/orthotic inserts, surgery, and physical therapy. Your podiatric surgeon will determine which treatment options are best for you depending on your age, the severity of symptoms, recovery time and other factors. Our team will guide you from diagnosis through treatment and recovery.
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Frequently Asked Questions
It’s best to have your injury checked out by a doctor. Without an X-ray, it may be impossible to know if you have a fracture or a sprain, and sometimes a bad sprain may require medical treatment to heal properly. Although many people may be tempted to “walk it off” or just rest for a few days, a foot or ankle injury can have serious, long-term implications if not properly diagnosed and treated.
Your doctor will assess if you would benefit from surgery depending on the type of injury, the severity of symptoms and your needs. Your doctor may recommend conservative treatments such as medications, orthotics, or special footwear before considering surgery as an option.
Your procedure may be covered by insurance if it is deemed medically necessary. Please contact your insurance company to determine your coverage.
Before surgery, you may be asked to get blood tests and take or adjust medications. If you smoke, quitting will help you heal faster and better avoid complications. You’ll be given special instructions to follow prior to your surgery.
Recovery time depends on the type of surgery and level of correction needed, and it may take a few weeks or a number of months. Your surgeon will discuss a realistic time frame for your recovery.
Your doctor may recommend a physical therapy program to help you get the best results from your surgery. Physical therapy can help you regain range of motion, strength, and flexibility after surgery.