A podiatrist is a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), a physician and surgeon who treats the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg. All too commonly, there is a misconception that podiatrist only treat foot related pathology. However, foot pathology only makes up a portion of what podiatrists actually treat on a day-to-day basis.

Podiatrists also provide treatment for ankle and related soft tissue pathology of the lower leg. The ankle is made up of three bones—tibia, fibula, and talus. The talus sits above your heel bone and supports the tibia (your shin bone) and the fibula (thinner bone found next to the tibia). These three bones are held together by multiple ligaments that surround the ankle joint.

Some of the more commonly encountered ankle conditions podiatrists treat include: ankle sprains and strains, ankle instability (recurrent giving way of the outer (lateral) side of the ankle), ankle fractures, peroneal tendonitis, achilles tendonitis and achilles tendon ruptures. But that’s not all – podiatrists also treat soft tissue pathologies on the lower leg such as lipomas, ganglion cysts and wounds.

The most common causes of ankle pain are ankle sprains, both acute and chronic. An ankle sprain usually occurs because the foot twists beyond its intended range. This overstretches, or even tears, ligaments that hold the ankle together. Some people may think an ankle sprain is something that only happens to athletes, but anyone who walks could, and most likely will, suffer from this injury at some point in their lives. All it takes is misstep down a curb or stepping on uneven terrain.

Chronic ankle instability usually develops following an ankle sprain that has not adequately healed or was not rehabilitated completely. When you sprain your ankle, the connective tissues (ligaments) are stretched or torn. The ability to balance is often affected. Proper rehabilitation is needed to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and retrain the tissues within the ankle that affect balance. Failure to do so may result in repeated ankle sprains.

Repeated ankle sprains often cause—and perpetuate—chronic ankle instability. Each subsequent sprain leads to further weakening (or stretching) of the ligaments, resulting in greater instability and the likelihood of developing additional problems in the ankle. Without proper rest and rehab, an ankle sprain can lead to chronic ankle instability. People who suffer from ankle instability usually complain of persistent discomfort, pain and swelling, additionally described is an ankle feeling wobbly or unstable.

Therefore, it is important to rest, ice, compress and elevate the ankle following an injury. As the swelling and pain improve, proper rehab should take place. Failure to do so can lead to long-term issues. Likely on account of how common they are, most people think a sprained ankle isn’t really a big deal. With proper care and attention, they might be right. So next time you injure your ankle, don’t forget that the podiatrists at Physicians Footcare are here to help get you back on your feet.