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Other Toe, Foot and Ankle Injuries


Everyone has had a minor toe, foot, or ankle injury that caused pain or swelling. Most of the time our body movements don't cause problems. But sometimes symptoms develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or an injury.

Toe, foot, or ankle injuries most often occur during:

In children, most toe, foot, or ankle injuries occur during sports, play, or falls. The risk for injury is higher in sports with jumping, such as basketball. And it's higher in sports with quick direction change, such as soccer or football. Any bone injury near a joint may injure the growth plate (physis) in a child. It needs to be checked.

Certain athletes, such as dancers, gymnasts, and soccer or basketball players, have a higher risk of toe, foot, or ankle injuries.

Older adults are at higher risk for injuries and fractures. That's because they lose muscle mass and bone strength as they age. They also have more problems with vision and balance. These problems increase their risk of injury.

Most minor injuries will heal on their own. Home treatment is usually all that's needed.

What is a sudden (acute) injury?

An acute injury may occur from a direct blow, a penetrating injury, or a fall. It can also happen if you twist, jerk, jam, or bend a limb abnormally. Your pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may start soon after your injury. Acute injuries include:

  • Bruises (contusions). After an ankle injury, bruising may extend to your toes from the effects of gravity.
  • Puncture wounds. Sharp objects such as nails, tacks, ice picks, knives, teeth, and needles can all cause puncture wounds. These wounds increase your risk of infection because they are hard to clean. They also provide a warm, moist place for bacteria to grow.
  • Injuries to ligaments that support your joints.
  • Injuries to tendons, such as ruptured tendons in your heel (Achilles tendon). Children ages 8 to 14 may have a condition known as Sever's disease. It causes injury to the growing bone where the Achilles tendon is attached. This usually occurs during activity and is relieved with home treatment.
  • Injuries to your joints (sprains). If a sprain doesn't seem to be healing, you may have a condition called osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). It causes lasting symptoms. In OCD, a piece of bone or cartilage (or both) inside a joint loses blood supply and dies. Symptoms include pain and swelling.
  • Pulled muscles (strains). Muscles of the foot and ankle can be strained. They can also rupture.
  • Broken bones (fractures), such as a broken toe.
  • A bone moving out of place (dislocation).
  • A crushing injury, which can lead to compartment syndrome.
What are overuse injuries?

Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on your joint or other tissue. It often happens when a person "overdoes" an activity or repeats the same activity over and over. Overuse injuries include:

  • Retrocalcaneal bursitis, which is inflammation of the bursa. It causes swelling and tenderness of the back of the heel and ankle. Pain usually gets worse while you are wearing shoes and during activity. Pain improves during rest.
  • Achilles tendinitis or tendinosis (tendinopathy). This is the breakdown of soft tissues in and around the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
  • Stress fracture. This is a hairline crack in a bone.
  • Plantar fasciitis. This is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a broad, flat ligament on the bottom of the foot. This ligament extends from the front of the heel to the base of the toes. It helps maintain the arch of the foot.
  • Metatarsalgia, which is pain in the front (ball) of the foot.
What is the treatment for toe, foot and ankle injuries?

Treatment for your toe, foot, or ankle injury may include first aid (such as using a brace, splint, or cast), a special shoe (orthotic device), physical therapy, or medicine. In some cases, surgery is needed. Treatment depends on:

  • The location and type of injury, and how bad it is.
  • When the injury occurred.
  • Your age, your overall health, and your activities (such as work, sports, or hobbies).
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