The diagnosis of ankle and foot injuries depends on the type of pain you experience. Your doctor will likely begin with a detailed history to understand how your symptoms developed and whether they are related to a specific incident such as a fall.
Other standard diagnostic tests for foot and ankle conditions include:
- Physical exams to check for for deformities, bruising, swelling, other signs of injury, and to evaluate your range of motion
- Imaging tests such as MRIs, CT scans, PET scans, and x-rays to get a picture of your soft tissue and bones
- Blood tests or other tests to look for underlying causes that may be presenting as foot and ankle injuries
Treatment and prevention options depend on your specific problem and medical history. Many common foot conditions respond to an adjustment in your footwear. This includes getting shoes with proper fit, buying shoes that accommodate your problem, and using inserts, pads, or orthotics to improve comfort and alignment.
Foot and ankle injuries may respond to RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) and anti-inflammatory medicines. These treatments help reduce swelling and pain and allow your body to heal on its own.
Sometimes, doctors recommend corticosteroid shots or surgery. Wearing a cast or boot may be necessary for fractures or following surgery. Physical therapy can help your injury heal and prevent future problems.
Dignity Health offers complete care for common foot and ankle conditions and injuries as part of our orthopedic services.
Recovery from ankle and foot conditions varies depending on the type of injury, its location, and the severity, as well as the kind of treatment required.
Mild injuries to soft tissue, such as sports-related overuse, will typically resolve within a few weeks of rest and conservative treatment.
Fractures and other more serious injuries may take several weeks through several months to heal fully. Your doctor will work with you to develop a plan so you recover as smoothly and quickly as possible. In many cases, physical therapy is a helpful step for regaining strength and mobility in your ankle joints.
Gaining strength and losing weight can also help some people reduce the likelihood of reinjury.
When to seek emergency care for a foot or ankle condition
Most foot and ankle conditions are the result of mild injuries. Many will resolve on their own or with at-home treatments such as elevation, compression, and ice.
In rare cases, pain in the foot or ankle can indicate something more serious. If you notice one or more of the following symptoms, please contact your doctor:
- Pain in the ankle or foot accompanied by a fever
- Pain in the ankle or foot accompanied by severe abdominal pain
- Sudden loss of range of motion (such as not being able to point your toes or flex your foot)
- Pain in the ankle or foot that is severe or limits your ability to stand or walk
- Pain in the ankle or foot that does not improve after several days of rest and at-home care
- Pain in the ankle or foot after an injury such as a fall
- Pain in the ankle or foot if you have a previous diagnosis of diabetes
- Pain in the ankle or foot with numbness in your toes
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.