Protecting Your Foot & Ankle

By Dr. Brandon Bultsma

The summer months are now in full swing and that means you can finally enjoy being more active. Whether you enjoy weekend sports, daily fitness activities or simply walking with your furry four-legged friend, having pain-free and healthy feet is important. Regardless of activity, the continual use of your foot and ankles leaves them prone to injury and pain. Detecting injuries early is key to being able to treat them and get back on your feet. I’d like to discuss a few common foot and ankle injuries to be aware of for this summer so you can learn how to recognize them and seek out treatment if needed in order to maximize the amount of time you spend enjoying your favorite activities.

Heel Pain — the most common source of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. Although heel pain can arise from other issues, inflammation of the plantar fascia due to repetitive use or a faulty foot structure causes an inflamed fascia. Proper stretching of the fascia and calf muscles can lead to a reduction in fascial inflammation. Properly fitting shoes with adequate support will in turn better support your heel and arches, preventing further damage to the fascia. Should pain persist, an evaluation of your foot and ankle structures should be performed and a treatment regimen tailored to your needs should be started.

Ankle Sprains — A common sport injury, ankle sprains can occur during daily activity as well. Ankle sprains can occur alone, but they may also be associated with more severe injuries, such as tendon tears, ankle fractures, ligament disruption and cartilage damage. A prompt evaluation and treatment should be performed to rule out further issues. If you feel you have instability of the ankle, wearing high-support athletic shoes during activity will help prevent sprains. Adding a lace-up ankle brace will also add support to the ankle complex.

Achilles Tendon Disorders — The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body; nevertheless, with enough force, it can be torn and ruptured. Athletes are most prone to Achilles tendon injury due to the repetitive stress on the tendon and forceful impact of sport. Rupture of the Achilles tendon requires immediate treatment to prevent irreversible damage or loss of function to the tendon. Irritation to the Achilles tendon from bone spurs may also occur and can lead to microtrauma of the tendon and as a result, can cause heel pain.

Morton’s Neuroma — a neuroma is a “thickening” of a nerve in the forefoot leading to pain anywhere from the ball of the foot to the joints of the toes. Neuromas are a result of activity involving repetitive impact to the ball of the foot, such as with running on hard surfaces and court sports. Compression and irritation of the nerve in the ball of the foot causes continued pain to the area. Symptoms typically start gradually and come and go depending on nerve irritation.

Stress Fracture — when a bone has an incomplete break, it is called a stress fracture. Many factors can contribute to the development of a stress fracture, including foot structure, footwear and age. Typically, the area involved will continue to be painful and swollen after a period of rest. A suspected stress fracture should have a full evaluation by a foot and ankle specialist.

Dr. Brandon Bultsma, of The Foot and Ankle Institute of Southeast Michigan, is proud to serve Macomb County and the surrounding area. He provides medical and surgical treatment of all aspects of the foot, ankle and lower leg and is on staff at Beaumont Hospital, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital and Ascension St. John. Visit footanklesemichigan.com for more information.

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