Ankle Pain and Tendinitis (Tendonitis)

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Ankle pain and tendinitis facts

  • The ankle is a "hinged" joint.
  • Ankle pain can be caused by injury or disease of the ankle joint.
  • The severity of ankle sprains ranges from mild (which can resolve within 24 hours) to severe (which can require surgical repair).
  • Tendinitis of the ankle can be caused by trauma or inflammatory arthritis.

How is the ankle designed, and what is the ankle's function?

The ankle is a "hinged" joint capable of moving the foot in two primary directions: away from the body (plantar flexion) and toward the body (dorsiflexion). It is formed by the meeting of three bones. The end of the shinbone of the leg (tibia) and a small bone in the leg (fibula) meet a large bone in the foot, called the talus, to form the ankle. The end of the shinbone (tibia) forms the inner portion of the ankle, while the end of the fibula forms the outer portion of the ankle. The hard, bony knobs on each side of the ankle are called the malleoli. These provide stability to the ankle joints, which function as weight-bearing joints for the body during standing and walking.

Ligaments on each side of the ankle also provide stability by tightly strapping the outside of the ankle (lateral malleolus) with the lateral collateral ligaments and the inner portion of the ankle (medial malleolus) with the medial collateral ligaments. The ankle joint is surrounded by a fibrous joint capsule. Tendons that attach the large muscles of the leg to the foot wrap around the ankle both from the front and behind. The large tendon (Achilles tendon) of the calf muscle passes behind the ankle and attaches at the back of the heel. A large tendon of the leg muscle (posterior tibial tendon) passes behind the medial malleolus. The peroneal tendon passes behind the lateral malleolus to attach into the foot.

The normal ankle has the ability to move the foot, from the neutral right-angle position to approximately 45 degrees of plantar flexion and to approximately 20 degrees of dorsiflexion. The powerful muscles that move the ankle are located in the front and back portions of the leg. These muscles contract and relax during walking.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/1/2014

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Treatment for Exercise & Sports Injuries

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Sports injuries refer to the kinds of injury that occur during sports or exercise. While it is possible to injure any part of the body when playing sports, the term sports injuries is commonly used to refer to injuries of the musculoskeletal system.

Some of the most common sports injuries include:

  • Sprains—tears to the ligaments that join the ends of bones together. The ankles, knees, and wrists are commonly affected by sprains.
  • Strains—pulls or tears of muscles or tendons (the tissues that attach the muscles to the bones)
  • "Shin splints"—pain along the outside front of the lower leg, commonly seen in runners
  • Achilles tendonitisor rupture of the Achilles tendon—These injuries involve the large band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel
  • Fractures of the bones
  • Dislocation of joints

Acute injuries usually occur suddenly while participating in sports or exercise. They may result in sudden and severe pain, the inability to bear weight on a limb, or inability to move the affected part of the body. Chronic injuries usually result from overuse of one area of the body over a period of time. Symptoms of chronic injuries include soreness, dull aching pain, and pain during participation in physical activity.


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