The foot can be tricky – it has many small structures in a compact space. Ligaments, tendons, nerves, or fascia can contribute to ankle and foot pain!
Luckily, physical therapists are experts at anatomy. We know how to analyze your walking/running pattern, foot mobility, and lower body strength to determine which components are contributing to your symptoms. Then, we teach you how to fix it.
At JACO, we provide a rare opportunity for you to be treated 1-on-1 by a physical therapist for over 50 minutes every session. We empower you to learn how to manage your symptoms so that you can confidently discharge from our care.
Interested in an appointment? Call us today!
Common Foot and Ankle Injuries that Physical Therapists Treat
Physical therapists treat a wide variety of injuries in this region. This lists only a few common examples!
Your ankle has ligaments that protect the integrity of the joint. The most common way to sprain a ligament is by “twisting your ankle”. If your ankle tends to get sprained a lot, you may have chronic ankle instability, which should be assessed by a physical therapist so you can prevent future sprains.
Your peroneal tendons are located on the outside of the ankle. It often gets inflamed when it is weak and overloaded. Tendonitis can be a nagging problem, so don’t wait. Get this assessed right away.
Posterior Tibialis Tendinopathy
Your posterior tibialis tendon is located on the inside of the ankle. It often gets inflamed when it is weak and overstretched. Again, tendinopathies can be a nagging problem, so don’t wait. Get this assessed quickly.
Your plantar fascia is located on the bottom surface of your foot. Too much stress on the plantar fascia can cause it to painfully stretch. This can be treated effectively with conservative care. Talk to your physical therapist about footwear and exercises that offload the plantar fascia.
Just like other tendinopathies, this one can be painful and lingering if it’s not addressed. Your Achilles tendon is what connects your calf muscle to the foot. It’s a large tendon that can handle a lot of load, but it can still succumb to injury. Talk to your physician about conservative care options and get a referral to physical therapy.
Lisfranc and Chopart Injuries
Your lisfranc and chopart joint complexes are located in your foot. They help the midfoot stay flexible while you walk on all types of surfaces. However, if the ligaments around these areas are disrupted, your foot’s structural integrity will be jeopardized. These ligaments are often disrupted during twisting injuries of the foot and may need surgical intervention.
How to Prevent Foot and Ankle Injuries
Your feet are resilient. They can withstand walking, running, hiking, jumping… they do it all. It’s important to take care of our feet so they can allow us to keep staying active.
To keep your feet and ankles healthy, you must look at the strength and mobility of the joints above. Are your hips mobile? Are they strong? Is your core working to keep you stable?
Your foot and ankle are flexible. Most of the structures that protect your foot and ankle from twisting injuries are small. It’s best not to rely on these muscles and ligaments alone to protect your foot’s structural integrity. Strengthening the larger muscles in the center of your body can help contribute to your overall stability. Improving functional strength of your core and glutes can decrease the load on the foot and ankle, thus also decreasing the chance for sprains and strains.
Take note: we said FUNCTIONAL strength!
It’s not enough to exercise stabilizing muscles with machines and resistance bands. You must apply the strength to action – challenge them the way you want the muscles to work. Otherwise, the body doesn’t know how to connect your newfound strength to stability during movement.
JACO therapists know how to improve your functional strength so that your body is just intelligent in recruiting its strength when you need it most: hiking, surfing, walking on sand, or playing your sport. You name it.
What to Expect during Physical Therapy
If you’ve already suffered an injury or received a surgery, JACO’s physical therapists will get you on the right track during 1 on 1 sessions which last over 50 minutes.
During your first visit at JACO Rehab, you will be seen by a physical therapist to determine your pain patterns. Your therapist will measure your foot and/or ankle’s range of motion and strength to determine what needs to be improved as your progress through your sessions. Your therapist may also screen joints above (knee, hip, back) to see if there are contributing factors to your injury. After your evaluation, you will receive a list of exercises to begin your rehab journey. You are expected to do these regularly!
Your following sessions will be used to re-assess your symptoms and determine the next steps in your recovery. Your therapist may adjust your home exercise program accordingly. Compliance in appointment attendance and exercise performance is key to your recovery. Every session, you’ll be working closer to functional strengthening that allows you to return to your daily activities.
Learn as much as you can during your physical therapy sessions. Your therapist is a huge resource and can provide so much education about your body’s movement patterns. You may even gain insight as to why your injury began in the first place and how to prevent it in the future.
Top 3 Frequently Asked Questions about Foot and Ankle Pain
1. Should I use crutches for my sprained ankle?
If you’ve sprained your ankle and you have difficulty walking, seek a healthcare professional for guidance.
Depending on the severity and location of a sprained ankle, you may need to use crutches.
However, for low-grade ankle sprains with light swelling, gradual loading of the ankle may be better than staying off it completely.
An isolated sprain affects ligaments only, not muscle or tendon. You need to maintain muscle strength to help protect your ankle from future sprains. If you offload your ankle for a longer time than necessary, the ankle could get weaker and have a difficult time recovering.
See your doctor for a physical therapy referral to JACO Rehab if you’ve had an ankle sprain. Ask how to progress mobility, strengthening, and general activity to avoid re-injuring the ankle.
2. How do I know if I broke my foot or ankle?
The Ottowa Ankle Rules help a healthcare provider determine if an x-ray is needed to help rule in/out a foot fracture.
In short, if you have tenderness at any bony prominences in the inside or outside of your foot/ankle and you’re unable to put weight through your foot without significant pain, an x-ray may be needed.
3. What causes ankle pain without direct injury?
Sometimes, foot and ankle pain can begin without any sudden event. There are injuries of the foot that develop over time, sometimes deemed an “overuse” injury. However, it could be the opposite: muscular weakness or “disuse” in the foot and ankle can predispose the region to injury.
Plantar fasciitis and peroneal/tibialis posterior tendinopathy are excellent examples of injuries that occur over time. The common areas for pain are under the foot’s arch or behind the bony areas on the inside or outside of the ankle.
Arthritic changes can also occur over time, just as it forms in other areas of the body like the knees or hips. Physical therapists can help determine your pain patterns and how to avoid overloading arthritic areas.