5 Common Ankle Injuries for Runners
Running is a wonderful form of exercise and can be rewarding and fun. Any doctor will admit, however, that running is very hard on the body due to impact on the low back, hips, knees, ankles and feet. Several ankle injuries and conditions can develop because of running. Identifying the origin of pain can help determine the type of injury and the most effective treatment.
Here are five commonly diagnosed conditions that many runners encounter:
Achilles tendonitis is one of the most common runner injuries. Most people describe feeling a tight, dull and achy sensation in the ankle as they begin to run, which improves as they continue running. This is the Achilles tendon becoming inflamed and irritated. When under excessive load, either repetitively or all at once, the tendon can rupture. In the case of tendonitis, however, it can fray or tear, becoming swollen and painful. Some patients may say they feel nodules on the tendon, but this is actually swelling within the tendon. A runner may develop Achilles tendonitis in only one ankle, or more severely in just one, because there are often subtle gait abnormalities and asymmetries that cause slight muscle imbalances when running.
Shin splints are another common injury among runners. Anterior shin splints, as they are known, often occur with newer runners but can also affect seasoned runners who are increasing their run volume. Shin splints are essentially characterized by pain in the front of the lower leg, at or around the tibialis anterior, the extensor digitorum longus and extensor hallicus longus. The cause of pain with shin splints is most often a combination of irritation to the muscles and tendons around the shin bones, irritation to the bone interface where the tendons attach, or breakdown of the bone from repetitive impact.
The best treatment for shin splints is very simple — rest. Another consideration is to determine if improper gait is responsible for putting too much strain on the tendons surround the shins. Wearing proper running shoes for your foot shape, or using custom orthotics, can ensure that the foot and arch are properly supported for a neutral run gait.
Impingement of the ankle is marked by decreased ankle mobility with a pinching sensation in the front or back of the ankle. This pinching may be bone formation, fluid accumulation or cartilage growth in the joint. Impingement may not initially affect a runner at first, and it may not yet be painful, but limited ankle mobility is a recipe for more serious injury. If the ankle cannot articulate in its full range of motion, other joints in the lower leg, such as the knees and metatarsal joints, will have to overcompensate to create a full push off with the foot.
Chronic ankle instability is an often subtle, hidden reason behind more serious injuries sustained by frequent runners. Weak ankles can develop due to previous injuries, such as sprains or stress fractures, and creates a very high risk of future injuries. Either functional instability or mechanical instability are the culprits of most weak ankles. Working to keep chronic ankle instability at bay can be most effectively managed with ankle strengthening exercises and adequate stretching before running.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is another common injury sustained by runners. Numbness in the foot, a tingling sensation, and pain when feet are bound in tighter shoes are all symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome. This condition is a nerve compression, which accounts for the numbness and tingling most runners experience and report. In later stages or more severe cases, this tingling will morph into pain. Tendonitis swelling, arthritis, and pronation of the foot can exacerbate this condition.
Serious runners should always have a working partnership with a podiatrist. Regular exams can ensure that running remains an enjoyable, safe activity for years to come. Request an appointment with one of our podiatric specialists today for a foot exam by clicking here or call any of our convenient office locations in the Piedmont Triad.
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