The constant use of the lower extremities makes them an easy target for injury and pain, specifically in the ankles. Walking, sitting and standing all put pressure on our ankles, while most athletic activities rely on them as well. Ankle pain is a common ailment that affect thousands of people in the US each year. These symptoms may be a result of the same condition or can be completely separate. It is important to determine the source of the pain in order to successfully treat these conditions.

Ankle Sprain

A sprain is a stretching or tearing of one or more ligaments, the tough fibrous bands that hold the ankle bones in place. Sprains can be caused by anything from a sports injury or accident to stepping on an uneven or sloped surface. Generally, the movements that can stretch a ligament beyond its normal range are twisting, rolling and turning of the foot. Sprains are divided into categories based on the severity of the injury, from Grade 1 (slight damage to the ligament) to Grade 3 (complete tear). Symptoms may include pain, swelling, stiffness and bruising. There may be a popping sound when the ankle is moved or touched. The ankle may be unstable or unable to hold weight.

Sprained ankles should be examined by a doctor to rule out the possibility of a bone fracture or other damage. Professional diagnosis and care will also ensure that the joint heals properly, limiting the chance of further injury.

Achilles Tendon

The Achilles tendon is the strong band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel and helps you point your foot downward and push off as you walk. If stretched too far, the tendon can tear (rupture), causing severe pain in the ankle and lower leg that can make it difficult or even impossible to walk. An Achilles tendon rupture often occurs as a result of repeated stress on the tendon and may be partial or complete, depending on the severity of the injury.

Injuries to the Achilles tendon are considered to be quite common, as they can be caused by several different factors, including:

  • Overuse
  • Poor stretching habits
  • Tight or weak calf muscles
  • Flat feet
  • Wearing shoes that do not fit properly
  • Engaging in physical activity after a long break

After an Achilles tendon rupture, patients often experience severe pain and swelling, and are unable to walk normally or bend their foot. You may hear a popping or snapping sound as the rupture occurs. These symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, such as bursitis and tendonitis, so it is important to seek prompt medical attention in order to determine the correct diagnosis of your condition.

Treatment for an Achilles tendon rupture depends on the severity of the condition, but often requires surgery to repair the tendon and restore function to the foot. Less severe cases may only require a cast or walking boot for several weeks, although the risk of a recurring rupture is higher. Patients can help prevent an Achilles tendon injury by stretching the tendon and nearby muscles before participating in physical activity.

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