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The Achilles tendon is a strong fibrous cord that connects the muscles in the back of your calf to your heel bone. If you overstretch your Achilles tendon, it can tear, affecting the back of your lower leg. The tear can occur as a result of jumping or pivoting, sudden acceleration, falling, or tripping, and can tear completely or partially. Signs of an Achilles tear include pain in the back of the ankle or calf, which usually feels like a kick at the time of injury and will subside to aching pain and swelling near the heel, and difficulty walking or rising up on the toes. You may also hear a popping or snapping sound when the injury occurs. For minor injuries, conservative treatment is recommended, which includes bracing to immobilize and allow the torn tendon to heal, along with physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and improve range of motion. For complete tears of the Achilles, surgery can be done to repair the rupture and decrease the likelihood of re-rupture.
A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between tendons and bones; bursitis is caused by inflammation of the bursa. Bursa are important structures in both the ankle joint and the subtalar joint because they ensure the structures of the joint move smoothly. Bursitis of the ankle could be a result of a fall where one lands improperly onto the ankle or bursa, continuous pressure that involves prolonged kneeling, or repetitive injury to the bursa and tendons, particularly the Achilles. Symptoms of bursitis include pain and tenderness in the ankle, swelling, and loss of motion. Conservative treatment options for ankle bursitis can include medication to reduce discomfort, drainage of fluid, and injections. Surgery can also be done to remove the affected bursa.
An ankle fracture involves breaks in the bones around the ankle joint. These bones include the tibia (the shinbone), the fibula (outer ankle bone), and the talus (the bone that connects your leg to your foot). Signs of an ankle fracture include pain, swelling, bruising, inability to move the ankle, a grinding sensation, and limited range of motion. Depending on which bones are broken, most ankle fractures can be treated non-surgically with a cast or brace as the injury heals. Surgery may be required to realign and stabilize the fracture, necessary if there is a compound fracture involving multiple bone structures, if the fracture has broken through skin, or the bone is severely out of place.
Ankle instability is marked by a repeated turning of the ankle, giving way on the outer side. This is generally caused by damage to the ligaments in the ankle joint. This can be either lateral (along the outside) or anterior (along the front). Ankle instability is typically characterized by the feeling of the ankle joint giving out, along with general tenderness of the ankle, discomfort, pain, swelling, weakness, and numbness. Ankle instability can often be treated with non-surgical treatment, including ankle immobilization to allow the damaged ligaments to heal, injections, medication, and physical therapy to strengthen the ligaments and muscles in the ankle.
Ankle tendonitis occurs when the connective tissues of the ankle become inflamed. These tendons connect the muscles of the leg and foot to the ankle bones. Ankle tendonitis is usually caused by overuse, like in athletic activities that strain the ankle and foot, such as soccer or running. Symptoms of ankle tendonitis can include tenderness and pain directly over the ankle joint, radiating pain down the leg, a burning sensation, weakness, and reduced range of motion. Your doctor may begin with conservative treatment to control inflammation and allow tendon healing, which can include immobilization, anti-inflammatory medications, injections, or physical therapy. When these treatment options fail to provide relief, surgery may be done to release tension in the affected tendon and remove any inflamed tissue.