Chronic ankle pain may be more than just a sprain

May 01, 2009
Line drawing of an ankle, showing where the peroneal tendons are located. (c) American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Ankle sprains are a common injury after a fall, sudden twist or blow to the ankle joint. Approximately 40 percent of those who suffer an ankle sprain will experience chronic ankle pain, even after being treated for their initial injury.

A review article published in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) explains that tendon injuries to the ankle can be a possible cause for this chronic pain. In some cases, the condition is untreated or overlooked which prolongs the pain and the problem.

"When patients injure their ankles, the injury may not seem serious at first," explains Terrence Philbin, DO, lead author of the article and Fellowship Director of the Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Center in Columbus, Ohio. "People may not seek medical attention and they can think it will just get better on its own. I think that is why this condition often goes undiagnosed."

The authors of the article describe how in some cases chronic ankle pain may actually be the result of injuries to the peroneal tendons.

  • The peroneal tendons are located behind the outside portion of the anklebone (called the fibula). The tendons help to stabilize the foot and ankle.
  • Tendon injuries can include tendonitis or swelling around the tendons. In more severe cases, the peroneal tendons can actually tear or there can be a swelling of the tendons behind the fibula bone. This can cause the ligament that holds the tendons together to stretch out and tear, or even rupture.
Symptoms associated with peroneal tendon injuries can include:
  • Ankle pain that is not responding to treatment
  • Swelling and tenderness around the outside of the ankle
  • Pain behind the anklebone
  • Pain that transmits from the ankle down into the foot
The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound can be helpful when identifying and diagnosing peroneal tendon injuries and disorders. "These imaging techniques offer a more complete look at the peroneal tendons," noted Philbin. "One might consider getting an MRI or ultrasound especially if you have chronic ankle pain."

If the condition is caught early, non-operative treatment options can include:

  • Rest, ice and elevation
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Immobilization in a cast or brace
  • Physical therapy
More serious injuries of the peroneal tendons, including tears or ruptures, will very likely require surgery.

Peroneal tendon injuries can happen suddenly or can develop over time. The injury is most common among athletes involved in sports that require repetitive ankle motion and in individuals who have high arches of the foot.

A proper diagnosis is essential in order to treat peroneal tendon injuries correctly and to help alleviate chronic pain. Philbin reminds patients, "If you have ankle pain and it is not getting better, do not ignore it. Get it evaluated by a physician who has experience treating foot and ankle injuries."

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (news : web)

Explore further: Experts call for higher exam pass marks to close performance gap between international and UK medical graduates

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The spring in your step is more than just a good mood

Apr 23, 2008

Scientists using a bionic boot found that during walking, the ankle does about three times the work for the same amount of energy compared to isolated muscles---in other words, the spring in your step is very real and helps ...

Rotator cuff tears: Are they all in the family?

May 01, 2009

People with relatives who have experienced rotator cuff tears are at increased risk of similar tendon tears themselves, according to a study published in the May 2009 issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS) ...

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.