SYMPTOMS - Foot & Ankle

The following are common symptoms (complaints) that people with foot or ankle problems have.


Pain is the most common symptom associated with plantar fasciitis (heel pain) and ankle sprains. The pain occurring with plantar fasciitis is usually sharp and occurs during your first few steps after sleeping or resting. This is because your foot and heel tissue (fascia) contracts when you rest. When this contraction is stretched, you develop pain. However, once the tissue (fascia) is stretched, the pain diminishes. Thus, the pain normally disappears after a few steps. The pain of an ankle sprain is usually very sharp and almost nauseating. Ankle sprain pain is associated with swelling and bruising. The most common location of ankle sprain pain is on the outside (lateral) part of your ankle over the fibula. Usually, the pain is decreased with time, rest, elevation, ice and compression. However, if your pain is extreme and continues for over 48 hours, you should see your physician.

Instability (Giving Away)

A feeling of instability to your foot or ankle after a single or multiple injuries may mean that you have torn some ligaments in your ankle and foot. In some cases, you may have some arthritis of your ankle joint or the joints beneath your ankle. Your feelings of instability may be worsened when you try to walk on uneven surfaces such as your yard or stairs. Some instability is normal after a minor sprain especially in the early phases of recovery. People with recurrent (chronic) ankle sprains complain of instability on a long-term basis. However, if you continue to experience instability, you should report this to your physician.


Stiffness can occur with ankle sprain, arthritis, and plantar fasciitis. Usually, the stiffness occurs after resting your foot and ankle. The stiffness is usually temporary and will start to diminish with exercise, proper shoe wear, weight loss, cryotherapy, and time. However, if you continue to experience stiffness despite your simple efforts to treat this symptom, please contact your physician.


Swelling is a common finding after an injury, such as an acute ankle sprain. Sometimes this swelling can be severe. People with recurrent ankle sprains can experience swelling to a more mild degree. You must be careful, however; sometimes swelling can be caused by problems not related to your ankles at all, such as heart problems or blood clots further up your legs. For this reason, if you do have swelling, you should have it evaluated by your doctor, especially if you have not had an injury to your ankle or are getting swelling in both ankles.


Popping of your ankle or feet without any associated pain or instability is usually normal. The cracking you hear when you are moving around quietly in the morning is just the snapping and stretching of the tissue lining your joints. However, if you experience a tendon snapping over one of your anklebones when you make quick cutting motions or descend stairs, you may have a condition called subluxation or dislocation of your tendons. A subluxation is when your tendons jump out of their normal position and than move back. A dislocation is when these tendons move out and you may have to actually push them back into place. You may also experience pain, and instability of your ankle. Some people with chronic ankle sprains complain of popping in their ankles. If you have these symptoms, please contact your physician.


A feeling of pins and needles around your foot and ankle may indicate a compression of your nerves or a general problem with your nerves, such as that caused by diabetes or vascular problems. The compression of your nerves may be located in different areas of your body. Numbness on the outside or top of your foot may be due to the compression of a nerve in your lower back or around your knee. Numbness on the inside or bottom of your foot can be due to a compression of the nerve around the inside of your ankle. This is due to compression of the nerve traveling through a fibrous tissue tunnel called the tarsal tunnel. This is very similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in your wrist. If you have severe swelling in your leg, ankle or foot, this can cause serious damage to all of your surrounding tissue including your nerves. If you have painful, tight swelling you should see your physician immediately. Also, if you experience numbness that does not seem to be improving, you should see your physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment.


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