Foot and Ankle Pain

Stevens Point Orthopedics' specialists and surgeons are experts at treating foot and ankle pain.
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The foot and ankle are complex structures consisting of numerous bones, the joints between them, the ligaments that keep them stable, and the muscles that generate strength and motion. Your foot and ankle take a lot of stress in a given day from standing, walking, running, or going up and down stairs. The muscles within the foot help the bones provide structure and support.

Your foot is the base of support for your entire body. If the alignment of your foot is off because of weakness or structural issues, it can cause many problems up your entire leg. Foot or ankle problems can be caused by overuse, traumatic injury, or changes that occur naturally in your body.

Suffering from foot and ankle pain? Contact us to learn about treatment options.

How Your Foot and Ankle Works

The foot consists of three parts: the forefoot, midfoot, and hindfoot. The forefoot is made up of your toes and metatarsals, or the long bones that many of us think of as our foot. There are five metatarsals, each made up of two bones. The midfoot consists of five small bones called the navicular, cuboid, and first, second, and third cuneiform bones. The hind foot is made up of the heel bone (calcaneus) and the talus bone, which sits on top of the heel bone. The talus meets the two bones of the lower leg (tibia and fibula) to create the ankle joint.

Bones are connected to other bones by ligaments which help provide stability. Many ligaments go between each of the bones in the foot. Each of these can be injured and cause pain and instability. The ankle has three main ligaments on the outside of the ankle and one broad band of ligaments on the inside of the ankle, all connecting the two leg bones to the foot. There is also a ligament in the ankle, which connects the shinbone (tibia) to the outside lower leg bone (fibula). When this ligament is injured, it is referred to as a high ankle sprain.

Within the foot, many muscles help flex and extend the toes. Some of these muscles have tendons that travel up the ankle and attach on the tibia or fibula; others remain entirely in the foot. The ankle has a series of muscles that allow the ankle to move in, out, up, and down. The Achilles tendon attaches to the heel and turns into the calf muscles ending behind the knee.

Evaluating Foot and Ankle Pain

Evaluation for foot and ankle pain starts with you telling us when and how it started, how it currently feels, and which treatments you have tried. We ask about other medical conditions that may contribute to your pain and do a physical exam to test your foot and ankle structures. Then we check your foot or ankle’s range of motion and strength, and do tests that can uncover specific problems.

Based on the findings of your physical, we may use a cortisone injection as a clinical test and pain treatment. The injection’s numbing medicine helps us determine the source of your pain, while the cortisone can provide pain relief. Sometimes we order X-rays or MRIs to visualize your bones and soft tissues. X-rays can show fractures, spurs, and changes from arthritis. MRIs can show us more bone detail as well as soft-tissue damage like ligament or muscle tears.

Whatever the cause of your foot and ankle pain, we are dedicated to helping you find the best treatment. Request an appointment today.

Causes of Foot Pain

  • Arthritis
  • Fractures
  • Instability
  • Weakness
  • Inflammation
  • Less common causes – infection, tumors, or nerve problems

Treating Ankle and Foot Pain

Treatment of ankle and foot pain is specific to the diagnosis and severity of your symptoms.

Lifestyle modifications include: resting your ankle and foot, changing daily activities to avoid painful situations, gentle motion exercises to smooth and polish the ankle joint, and doing exercises to strengthen weak muscles.
Medications can help with some conditions. Non-steroidal medications (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can relieve inflammation. For severe inflammation, a short burst of a steroid medication may be an option. Medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help control your pain.
Cortisone injections target a specific location in your foot or ankle using a powerful anti-inflammatory medication. Numbing medications in the injection help us know if the spot injected is the pain source.
Physical therapy focuses on getting your foot and ankle muscles and joints to properly work together as you stand and walk. Even if you are very strong and active, muscle imbalances can cause pain. Physical therapists can identify and address these through corrective exercises. They may give you take-home exercises to help return you to regular activities pain-free.
Braces can help increase the stability of the ankle (lace-up and hinged braces) or stabilize the foot and ankle (post-operative shoes and CAM walker).
Surgery may be an option for certain foot and ankle conditions if all other treatment options have been exhausted. Although many surgeries can be done through small incisions using a special camera (arthroscopy), some may still require traditional open surgery.

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