Woman Holding Her Injured AnkleFoot and ankle problems are not always caused by deformities, overuse, and wear and tear. In fact, the most common causes of foot and ankle injuries are traumatic events such as stumbles, falls, athletic participation, and car accidents. When you are experiencing ongoing pain and difficulty walking after a traumatic injury, podiatrist Zoe Ramos offers solutions to get you back on your feet.

Types of Traumatic Foot and Ankle Injuries

A traumatic incident, such as a fall, dropped object, or car accident, can cause serious injuries to the feet and ankles. Some common trauma-related injuries include:

  • Simple fractures. In a simple fracture, the bone is broken, but the two pieces are lined up and are expected to heal normally in a cast or walking boot.
  • Compound fractures. A break into two or more pieces where the bones are not lined up is considered to be a compound fracture. Sometimes, a piece of bone punctures the skin. These fractures often require surgery to line up the pieces before casting.
  • Sprain. Stretching or tearing a ligament in the foot or ankle in a fall or stumble can lead to a sprain. It can take a long time for a sprain to heal because ligaments are slow to bounce back after being stretched or torn.
  • Strain. A quick twist or pull can stretch or tear the muscles or tendons in the foot or ankle. Strains usually heal faster than sprains because muscles and tendons recover more quickly than ligaments.

These injuries all have one thing in common—they will keep you off your feet for weeks. Even after they are technically healed, there could still be recovery ahead.

Causes of Foot and Ankle Trauma

Despite the name, a traumatic injury does not have to be caused by a catastrophic event, although it sometimes is. More often, it is a minor trip or stumble that causes the injury. We use the term trauma to differentiate between a slowly developing wear-and-tear problem and an injury that happens suddenly.

The causes of traumatic injuries that we frequently see in our office include:

  • Stumbles and falls. When you miss a stair, step into a hole, or trip and fall to the ground, your feet and ankles work hard to keep you upright. The stress of this effort can cause a sprain or fracture.
  • Twists or pulls. Twisting your ankle when you misstep or stumble can stretch, strain, or tear a muscle or tendon in the ankle, heel, or foot.
  • Age-related incidents. As you age, your bones become more brittle, and soft tissue becomes less flexible, so when you trip or stumble, you are more likely to suffer a traumatic injury in your feet and ankles.
  • Athletics and exercise. Playing a sport or engaging in regular exercise puts you at a higher risk of a fall, collision, dropped object, ankle twist, or any number of traumatic accidents that can cause a fracture or sprain.
  • Car accidents. We don't often think about the risk to feet and ankles in a car accident, but given that your feet are close to the front of the vehicle, it is not unusual to see crushing injuries to feet in car crashes.

In treating a traumatic foot or ankle injury, it doesn't usually matter what caused it. The first stop after an accident that leaves you unable to stand or limping is the emergency room.

Diagnosis and Emergency Treatment of Traumatic Injuries

Pain, swelling, and an inability to put weight on your injured foot or ankle are clear signs that you should go to an urgent care, emergency room, or your doctor's office if they have X-ray capability. Imaging will be necessary to properly diagnose the injury. While an X-ray can show a broken bone, it will not reveal injuries to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Those injuries can be diagnosed with an MRI, but they are usually diagnosed by assessing your symptoms and eliminating other causes.

Broken bones can be set by doctors in the ER, or—if necessary—surgery can be scheduled with an orthopedic surgeon. Treatment for sprains and strains usually consists of wrapping, icing, and resting. Torn tendons and ligaments might be recommended for surgical repair. Once the injury has been diagnosed and you have received initial treatment, you will want to find follow-up care to help with your recovery.   

Support and Rehabilitation for Chronic Pain and Weakness

People who have suffered trauma to the foot or ankle are at a higher risk of reinjuring the same spot if they don't take steps to fully recover and regain their strength. Sprains and strains are of particular concern because ER and primary care doctors tend to treat these injuries with advice to avoid putting weight on the injured foot until it is no longer painful.

Athletes sometimes get better treatment through a trainer or sports medicine doctor, but there is often additional pressure to recover as quickly as possible and get back on the track or field. Physical therapy can be an important step to full recovery, but patients often aren't willing to put in the time—or they don't have insurance to cover the cost.

Partnering with our Livermore podiatrist, who focuses on traumatic and athletic injuries, can be an effective way to achieve a full recovery. At Forward Foot & Ankle, we offer state-of-the-art treatment options such as laser therapy and shockwave therapy, custom orthotics, injection therapy, and recommendations for shoes that will support you as you heal.

Treatment for Traumatic Injuries in the East Bay

If you are recovering from a broken or sprained ankle or foot, don't hesitate to reach out to us with questions. We can develop a treatment plan that will relieve your pain and strengthen the injured area. We serve the entire East Bay area, including Pleasanton, Danville, San Ramon, Dublin, Tracy, and Stockton. Call us at (925) 532-0099 or fill out our contact form, and we will be in touch to discuss your options for fast, effective treatment.