Ankle pain and ankle injuries
Expert care and treatment for sprained ankles, ankle instability, ankle arthritis, ankle fracturesCall for an appointment
Ankle sprains are among the most common ankle injuries, and occur when one or more of your ankle ligaments are torn or stretched. Only a healthcare professional can determine the severity of your ankle injury. Duke foot and ankle surgeons in Raleigh and Durham recommend the best treatment plan to heal your ankle and lower your risk for chronic ankle pain and ankle instability. Whether you experience an ankle sprain or ankle fracture, our goal is to strengthen your ankle and prevent future ankle injuries, including ankle arthritis.
Should you go to the doctor for ankle pain?
Nobody is immune to ankle sprains. A torn or stretched ankle ligament can occur from simply walking down the street or when playing vigorous sports activities. The extent of your ankle injury may range from mild to severe. A complete tear of the ankle ligament can cause your ankle joint to partially dislocate. This might sound like a pop, and can be as painful as an ankle fracture. Immediate medical attention is required to determine the extent of your ankle injury.
Mild ankle injuries benefit from medical attention too. Ankle sprains that don’t heal properly can weaken your ankle over time and lead to chronic ankle pain. Ankle instability can put you at increased risk for chronic ankle pain and ankle arthritis.
Duke foot and ankle experts use a variety of imaging techniques to evaluate your ankle injury, including X-rays to look for broken bones, and MRI and ultrasound to evaluate the health of your soft tissues, including ankle tendons, cartilage and ankle ligaments.
If you need immediate care for your ankle injury:
- You can make an appointment within 24 hours. Depending on availability, you may be seen by an orthopaedic specialist the same day you call for an appointment.
- You can get immediate care at Duke Orthopaedic Urgent Care. We provide orthopaedic-specific care at two convenient locations seven days a week. You will experience the convenience of fast service with no unnecessary exposure to sick people in the emergency room.
Do you need ankle surgery?
Most ankle sprains will heal with the RICE method – rest, ice, compression, elevation -- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication, and possibly bracing.
- Ankle-specific physical therapists at Duke can help you avoid stiffness, increase your ankle strength and prevent ankle instability. They work closely with your doctor to create a personalized sport- and activity-specific therapy plan to improve your mobility.
- One of the newest non-surgical options is stem cell injections. Foot and ankle specialists at Duke use liposuction to remove your own stem cells and inject them into the ankle joint. The outpatient procedure is proving effective at reducing pain and stimulating the healing process. In some cases, it may delay the need for ankle surgery. Stem cells may also be harvested from your bone marrow.
- Ankle surgery may be recommended if you have persistent ankle instability and chronic ankle pain after months of not responding to non-surgical treatment. Ankle surgery may be needed to clean out the joint or repair and/or reconstruct torn ligaments. If arthritis has caused extensive damage to your ankle joint, you may be a candidate for ankle fusion or ankle replacement surgery.
Seek care from an experienced ankle surgeon
Ankle surgery should be performed by foot and ankle experts who undergo advanced training and perform hundreds of foot and ankle procedures each year.
- Duke's foot and ankle experts are part of our orthopaedic program that is consistently ranked among the best by U.S. News and World Report.
- In addition to being board-certified and fellowship trained in foot and ankle surgery, Duke foot and ankle surgeons perform extensive research on ankle sprains, ankle instability, and ankle arthritis. Duke’s research into ankle injuries has impacted the way we approach treatment. We understand how ankle instability changes the forces that impact the ankle. The results of our research help us get you back on your feet faster.
- Torn or damaged ligaments benefit from ankle repair and/or ankle reconstruction surgery. Our foot and ankle surgeons use the latest techniques to repair and reconstruct ankle joints with bone and tissue grafts. These advances can result in less pain and better function.
- Duke foot and ankle surgeons also have extensive experience with the newest ankle implants and procedures. We were involved in the development, training, education or refinement of all the ankle implants used in total ankle replacement surgery. Some of the newer ankle implants are only available at major ankle centers like Duke. They get you back to weight-bearing activities sooner.
- When ankle fracture or ankle trauma is present, we use minimally invasive surgical techniques. The small incisions translate to faster recoveries and a quicker return to your daily activities.
Chronic ankle pain can be a sign of avascular necrosis, a condition that occurs when the blood supply to the ankle is disrupted and can result in the death of ankle bone tissue. This can be extremely debilitating, painful, and even put the ankle at risk for amputation.
- Duke foot and ankle surgeons and plastic surgeons perform complex procedures that restore blood supply to the ankle bone in the face of serious ankle trauma, fractures, and joint damage. We are also using 3D printing to recreate metal replacement of foot and ankle bones when avascular necrosis is present. This innovation can prevent the need for amputation and help you regain much of your normal ankle function.
ANKLE PAIN AND ANKLE INJURY
Non-surgical ankle treatments
Ankle sprains can be treated with the RICE method, ankle bracing and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Additional non-surgical treatment options include:
May be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation, and increase ankle joint mobility.
This emerging technique is used to regenerate torn and injured ligaments and tendons in the ankle joint. Plasma, which contains the body’s own growth factors -- substances that stimulate cell growth and promote healing -- is extracted from the patient’s own blood and injected into injured tissue. Studies suggest it may shorten healing time and possibly eliminate the need for surgery.
Foot and ankle surgeons use liposuction to remove stem cells from your abdominal fat, which are then injected into your damaged ankle joint. The stem cells contain growth factors that promote healing, anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling, and hyaluronic acid which lubricates and promotes new cartilage growth. The procedure may be recommended for people with ankle joint, tendon or ligament injuries, including ankle sprains and ankle arthritis.
Depending on your needs and activity level, physical therapists who specialize in ankle injuries will develop a treatment plan to strengthen your ankle, its muscles and tendons. Your plan may include resistance exercises, water exercises, balance training, endurance and agility exercises.
ANKLE PAIN AND ANKLE INJURY
A tiny tube-like device with a camera at its tip – called an arthroscope – is inserted into the ankle joint through small incisions. Ankle arthroscopy allows your ankle surgeon to view your joint, clean away chipped bones and scar tissue, and repair or reconstruct ankle tissues that may be torn or stretched.
Severely torn ankle ligaments may be repaired or reconstructed using tendons taken from elsewhere in the body or from donor tissue.
Ankle arthrodesis may be recommended to people with severe ankle arthritis who are not candidates for ankle replacement surgery. Two bones below the ankle joint are fused together to reinforce the ankle and reduce ankle instability. The long-lasting procedure reduces pain and restores some function.
Also referred to as ankle arthroplasty, this procedure is often the treatment of choice for severe ankle arthritis and damaged ankle joints. A metal or plastic ankle implant replaces the diseased ankle joint. Total ankle replacement surgery reduces pain and restores maximum function.