The human foot contains 26 bones, about 13% of the body’s total number. Connecting this set of bones to the lower leg is the ankle, a joint we greatly rely on to provide both stability (supporting our weight while standing) and mobility (allowing us to walk, run, and jump). Considering all that we ask of our feet and ankles, it’s no surprise that this intricate structure is a common site for tears, strains, sprains, and fractures.
Ankle Sprains and Fractures – Your ankle joint is made up of three bones: the tibia (shinbone), the fibula (lower leg bone), and the talus (ankle bone). One or more of these bones can break during a fall or blow to your ankle. However, the most common type of broken ankle is a fracture in one of the knobby bumps (each called a malleolus) at the lower ends of the tibia and fibula. These bones help support the joint where your ankle bone connects to your heel bone, which allows your foot to rock from side to side. They’re often injured when your ankle rolls inward or outward. A sprained ankle results when the ligaments that connect the bones of the foot are stretched beyond their normal limits, causing fibers and small blood vessels to tear. Sprained ankles can occur in the heat of a game or even from a simple misstep while walking. Without proper strengthening exercises and rehabilitation, the ankle joint may remain unstable following a sprain.
Plantar Fasciitis – Plantar fasciitis is an irritation of the plantar fascia—the thick, fibrous tissue that runs from the ball of the foot to the heel and supports the arch. This irritation occurs when the plantar fascia degenerates as a result of repeated microscopic tears from activities that put excessive stress on this tissue. Plantar fasciitis is characterized by sharp pain at the beginning of an activity or with the first few steps in the morning. This pain, typically felt on the heel and sometimes extending along the bottom of the foot, gradually lessens to a dull ache.
Shin Splint – A shin splint is pain resulting from damage to the muscles along the shin, usually caused by repeated stress to the lower leg. Although this condition usually affects runners, anyone who walks, dances, or performs other activities in which the feet continually hit the ground can suffer from shin splints. Factors that contribute to shin splints include:
- A natural imbalance in the size of opposing muscles in the front and outside parts of the shin.
- Exercising on hard surfaces, banked tracks, or crowned roads.
- Shoes with poor arch support or that do not adequately prevent the feet from rolling inward.
Achilles tendonitis – The Achilles tendon connects the grastrocnemius and the soleus muscles of the calf to the calcaneus (heel bone). Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon usually seen in runners and those individuals who participate in sports such as soccer, basketball, tennis and dance. Typically, this type of tendonitis can occur due to over training, including increased duration, intensity, and frequency along with bio-mechanical factors such as tibial varum (bow-legged), abnormal heel position, and tight hamstring and calf muscles.
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