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The importance of ankle health

ankle-factsThe human body is an amazing organism, and is made up of numerous structures that all work in harmony to keep us going. Each structure in our bodies serves a specific purpose, and the ankle is no exception. Our ankles are essential structures that allow our feet to move up and down so that we may run and walk smoothly. Your ankles may seem like simple structures, but they are essential to your ability to walk, run, jump, and get around with ease.

The anatomy of your ankles

The ankle is a hinge joint made up of three bones, several tendons and ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels. The three bones, the tibia (the larger bone on the inner side of the lower leg), the fibula (the smaller bone on the outer side of the lower leg), and the talus (the ankle bone) come together with articular cartilage in between. This cartilage is smooth and slick, allowing the bones to move against one another smoothly and painlessly and also acts a shock absorber. The structures are held together with ligaments that attach the bones to one another and tendons that attach bones to muscles. All of these must work together, with nerves and blood vessels running through them, for the lower legs, ankles, and feet to function properly.

When functioning properly, the ankles support 1.5 times your weight when you are walking or standing, and eight times your weight when running. They allow the feet to move up and down, creating the fluid motions of walking or running.

Although the ankle is only made up of three bones, it is one of the most commonly injured parts of the human body. Ankle injuries can range from mild irritations to severe, debilitating injuries. Three of the most common injuries are ankle sprains, tendon injuries, and ankle fractures.

Ankle sprains

One of the most common lower leg injuries is an ankle sprain. Ankle sprains typically occur when the ankle twists or rolls abnormally inward or outward. An ankle sprain involves the ligaments or tendons of the ankle that are being torn during the injury. For most people, the damage is minor, but a history of repeated ankle sprains without proper care can cause lasting damage, leaving the patient vulnerable to more serious injuries.

Tendon injuries

Two of the most commonly injured structures in the ankle, other than the bones, are the Achilles tendons, which run from the bottom of the calf muscles down the back of the ankle and into the calcaneus, or heel bone and the posterior tibial tendon which runs from the inner (medial) calf along the inner side of the ankle and into the arch of the foot. When the Achilles tendon ruptures either partially or completely, it can prevent the foot from flexing up or down. Often, this occurs when you jump. When the posterior tibial tendon becomes injured, it can impair the foot’s ability to support itself, and over time, may lead to a fallen arch.

Ankle fractures

Bones are extremely hard and durable structures, but they are not immune to fracture. The bones of the ankle can break due to falls, accidents, or trauma directly to the bones. While fractures of the femur (in the thigh) almost always prevent walking, you may still be able to walk after an ankle fracture. As a result, it is imperative that you have ankle injuries evaluated right away to determine if there is a fracture, sprain, or other type of injury. Walking on a broken ankle may cause additional damage, even permanent injury.

Although most ankle injuries are minor, it is important to have them examined by a podiatrist. Your podiatrist will not only be able to evaluate your injury, but will offer the best plan for treatment. To learn more about keeping your ankles healthy or healing an injured ankle, call Kansas City Foot Specialists today at (913) 338-4440.