Toe, Foot, and Ankle Injuries
At one time or another, everyone has had a minor toe, foot, or ankle injury that caused pain or swelling. Most of the time our body movements do not cause problems, but it's not surprising that symptoms develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or an injury.
Toe, foot, or ankle injuries most commonly occur during:
- Sports or recreational activities.
- Work-related tasks.
- Work or projects around the home.
In children, most toe, foot, or ankle injuries occur during sports, play, or falls. The risk for injury is higher in sports with jumping, such as basketball, or sports with quick direction change, such as soccer or football. Any bone injury near a joint may injure the Reference growth plate Opens New Window (physis) in a child and needs to be evaluated.
Certain athletes, such as dancers, gymnasts, or soccer or basketball players, have an increased risk of toe, foot, or ankle injuries.
Older adults are at higher risk for injuries and fractures because they lose muscle mass and bone strength (Reference osteopenia Opens New Window) as they age. They also have more problems with vision and balance, which increases their risk of injury.
Most minor injuries will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve your symptoms and promote healing.
Sudden (acute) injury
An acute injury may occur from a direct blow, a penetrating injury, or a fall, or from twisting, jerking, jamming, or bending a limb abnormally. Your pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after your injury. Acute injuries include:
- Reference Bruises (contusions) Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window. After an ankle injury, bruising may extend to your toes from the effects of gravity.
- Reference Puncture wounds Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window. Sharp objects, such as nails, tacks, ice picks, knives, teeth, and needles, can all cause puncture wounds. Puncture wounds increase your risk of infection because they are hard to clean and they provide a warm, moist place for bacteria to grow. The bacteria Reference Pseudomonas is a common cause of infections when a puncture wound occurs through the sole of an athletic shoe.
- Injuries to Reference ligaments Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window that support your joints.
- Injuries to Reference tendons Opens New Window, such as ruptured tendons in your heel (Reference Achilles tendon Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window). Young boys ages 8 to 14 may have a condition known as Sever's disease, which causes injury to the growing bone where the Achilles tendon is attached. This usually occurs during activity and is relieved with home treatment.
- Injuries to your joints (Reference sprains Opens New Window). If a sprain does not appear to be healing, a condition known as Reference osteochondritis dissecans may be present, causing persistent symptoms.
- Pulled muscles (Reference strains Opens New Window). Muscles of the foot and ankle can be strained and can also rupture.
- Broken bones (Reference fractures Opens New Window), such as a Reference broken toe.
- A bone moving out of place (Reference dislocation Opens New Window).
- A crushing injury, which can lead to Reference compartment syndrome Opens New Window.
Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on your joint or other tissue, often by "overdoing" an activity or repeating the same activity over and over. Overuse injuries include:
- Reference Retrocalcaneal bursitis Opens New Window, which is inflammation of the bursa. This condition causes swelling and tenderness of the back of the heel and ankle. Pain usually gets worse while you are wearing shoes and during activity, and it improves during rest.
- Reference Achilles tendinitis or tendinosis (tendinopathy) Opens New Window, which is the breakdown of soft tissues in and around the Achilles tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
- Reference Stress fracture Opens New Window, which is a Reference hairline crack in a bone Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window.
- Reference Plantar fasciitis Opens New Window, which is an inflammation of the Reference plantar fascia Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, a broad, flat ligament on the bottom of the foot that extends from the front of the heel to the base of the toes and helps maintain the arch of the foot.
- Reference Metatarsalgia, which is pain in the front (ball) of the foot.
Treatment for your toe, foot, or ankle injury may include first aid measures (such as the application of a brace, splint, or cast), a special shoe (Reference orthotic device), physical therapy, medicine, and, in some cases, surgery. Treatment depends on:
- The location, type, and severity of your injury.
- When the injury occurred.
- Your age, your overall health condition, and your activities (such as work, sports, or hobbies).
Reference Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 4, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Reference H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine