To understand how an ankle can be injured or can experience pain, it is first important to understand how this very important joint works.
It is a hinged jointed that can move the foot in two directions, away and toward the body. The ankle is formed as a meeting place of three different bones - the shinbone, the tibia and the fibula meet at the large foot bone, the talus, to form the ankle joint.
The bony knobs located on each side of the ankle are called malleoli and they provide stability to the joints that are necessary in order for a person to stand and walk properly, along with the ligaments on each side of the ankle.
The tendons that attach the muscles in this lower region of the leg all wrap around the ankle from the front and back. The muscles that move the ankle are found on both the front and back of the leg and are very powerful. They are the muscles that work most when walking.
Some possible injuries that can occur to the ankle include sprains and fractures.
Sprains are when the ligaments of the ankle are injured, which causes them to tear as a result of a sudden amount of stretching on either the inner or outer parts of the ankle joint. This commonly happens to people who have weak muscles in that area of the leg and foot. It is a very typical injury for people who play sports like basketball and soccer, and usually occurs when the ankle is suddenly twisted by stepping off an uneven surface.
At first, the pain can be grueling and a popping sensation in the joint might be felt. Most people will notice that the ankle area swells when a sprain occurs. This is cause by the injured blood vessels leaking fluid into the tissue that surrounds the ankle joint.
There is a range of severity in these sprains, which will usually be determined by a doctor with an x-ray of the ankle. It is best to elevate the leg immediately in order to decrease swelling and anti-inflammatory medications can be taken as well. Putting ice packs on the injured area is also a good idea, because it will stop the swelling and ease the pain. Rest will allow minor sprains to heal, but serious ones might need surgery followed by physical therapy in order to get the ankle back to its earlier condition.
When the ankle is fractured, it is usually immobilized with a cast in order to enable the bone to heal correctly. In the most serious cases, pins must be put into the bones to secure them into position so that they can heal correctly.
Another ailment of the ankle is tendonitis, which is an inflammation of the tendon and usually results from trauma or underlying inflammatory diseases such as reactive arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.