Keeping your ankles healthy

The ankle is one of the more stable joints in the body, but it does a lot of heavy work — supporting up to eight times your body weight when you run.
With that kind of pressure, it is no surprise ankle injuries are among the most common orthopaedic injuries.
At University Medical Center of Princeton, orthopaedic surgeons provide comprehensive care for chronic and sudden ankle injuries — from conservative therapies to advanced, minimally invasive surgery. Their goal is to preserve range of motion while getting patients back on their feet as soon as possible.
Ankle problems can involve any of the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding where the ends of the lower leg bones meet the foot. Common problems include:
Sprains. An estimated 25,000 people stretch or tear ligaments in their ankles each day, according to the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society.
Achilles injuries. The Achilles tendon moves the foot down and can rupture suddenly or wear down (tendonitis) over time.
Bone injuries. Fractures are common, but the ankle joint can also wear down from arthritis or develop bone outgrowths (bone spurs).
If you have a sudden injury that causes ankle pain or swelling, see a doctor immediately. If you experience mild discomfort that does not resolve in a week or two, it also is time to see a doctor.
Treatment for ankle injuries range from physical therapy and joint injections to complex surgical procedures. Most sprains can be treated with a combination of rest, compression, immobilization and ice. Achilles injuries and fractures may require surgery, though some fractures can heal without surgery.
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to protecting your ankles is not to wait too long in seeking medical attention for any problems. Delaying treatment can make injuries worse and more difficult to treat.
Other actions you can take to protect your ankles:
Maintaining a healthy weight. More weight means greater pressure on the ankle.
Warming up before exercising. Many Achilles injuries are caused by tightness in the tendon.
Cross train. Doing the same exercise over and over, such as running, can cause overuse injuries.
Paying attention and looking up when you walk or run. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, orthopaedic injuries are increasingly associated with distracted walking, including walking and texting.
Practicing ladder safety. Falls from ladders lead to hundreds of thousands of orthopaedic injuries every year. Make sure your ladder is secure and stable and that you are wearing proper shoes. Save the flip-flops and sandals for the beach.

By Stuart Levine, M.D., a board certified orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in foot and ankle surgery. He is a member of the medical staff at University Medical Center of Princeton.

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