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Causes of Foot and Ankle Pain
There are several reasons why you might be experiencing foot or ankle pain, here are some of the most common causes.
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The ankle joint is a commonly injured joint in the body. While ankle fractures and ankle sprains can heal well, they can also lead to problems much later in life. This is due to the wear and tear that occurs for years after the injury. This condition is called post-traumatic arthritis.
If arthritis develops, some of the main symptoms may include:
- Pain, swelling, stiffness, or tenderness in the joint
- Joint instability
- Deformity, bone spurs, or lumps in the joint
Sometimes called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common chronic condition of the joints, affecting approximately 30 million Americans.
The most common symptoms2 are pain and stiffness, particularly first thing in the morning or after resting. Affected joints may get swollen, especially after extended activity. These symptoms tend to build over time rather than show up suddenly. Some other common symptoms include:
- Sore or stiff joints after inactivity or overuse
- Limited range of motion or stiffness that goes away after movement
- Clicking or cracking sound when a joint bends
- Mild swelling around a joint, pain that is worse after activity or toward the end of the day
This bone condition (pronounced "sharko") is most often associated with neuropathy (significant nerve damage) common in diabetes and is one of the most serious foot problems. With Charcot, the nerve supply to the bones and joints is abnormal, and the patient‘s ability to sense the position of the joints in the foot is seriously impaired or even lost. The muscles lose their ability to support the joint properly, and minor traumas such as sprains and stress fractures go undetected.
The most common symptoms of Charcot Foot are:
- Insensitivity of the joint
- Heat and redness
- Instability of the joint
- Misalignment of the bones from the joint
With avascular necrosis, the blood supply to the bones of the ankle joint loses circulation and the joint and bones begin to deteriorate. As a result, the bones of the foot and ankle can become soft and collapse, causing trauma or fracture.
In the early stages of avascular necrosis, many people show no symptoms. As the condition worsens, you may experience:
- Pain when weight is applied or when laying down
- Gradually developing persistent pain
- Bloch B, Srinivasan S, Mangwani J. Current Concepts in the Management of Ankle Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review. J Foot Ankle Surg. 2015;54(5):932-939.
- Ha J, Hester T, Foley R, et al. Charcot foot reconstruction outcomes: A systematic review. J Clin Orthop Trauma. 2020;11(3):357-368.
- Gross CE, Haughom B, Chahal J, Holmes GB, Jr. Treatments for avascular necrosis of the talus: a systematic review. Foot Ankle Spec. 2014;7(5):387-397.