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Picture of the ankle

Broken ankle and sprained ankles are common ankle injuries.

Three bones make up the ankle:

  • The shin bone (tibia)
  • The thinner bone running next to the shin bone (fibula)
  • A foot bone that sits above the heel bone (talus)

The bony bumps (or protrusions) seen and felt on the ankle have their own names:

  • The medial malleolus, felt on the inside of your ankle is part of the tibia's base
  • The posterior malleolus, felt on the back of your ankle is also part of the tibia's base
  • The lateral malleolus, felt on the outside of your ankle is the low end of the fibula

The ankle joint allows up-and-down movement of the foot. The subtalar joint sits below the ankle joint and allows side-to-side motion of the foot. Numerous ligaments (made of tough, moveable tissue) surround the true ankle and subtalar joints, binding the bones of the leg to each other and to those of the foot.

ankle

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Ankle conditions

Sprained ankle: Damage to one of the ligaments in the ankle, usually from an accidental twist of the foot or from tripping over. Rehabilitation can prevent pain and swelling from becoming a long-term problem.

High ankle sprain: The ligament joining the two bones of the lower leg (tibia and fibula), called the syndesmotic ligament, is injured. A high ankle sprain causes pain and swelling similar to a true ankle sprain, but can take longer to heal.

Ankle fracture or broken ankle: A break in any of the three bones in the ankle. Most commonly, the bones of the lower leg (tibia or fibula) are fractured. It usually takes four to eight weeks to heal.

Ankle arthritis: While it's not common, osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, can affect the ankle.

Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune form of arthritis in which the body attacks joint tissue, causing inflammation, pain and swelling. Any joint may be affected by rheumatoid arthritis, including the ankle.

Gout: A form of arthritis in which crystals periodically deposit in joints, causing severe pain and swelling. The ankle may sometimes be affected by gout.

Psoriatic arthritis: This form of arthritis, which causes swelling and pain, is associated with the skin condition psoriasis. Many joints, including the ankle, may be affected by psoriasis.

Septic arthritis: Caused by bacterial infections that may occur in the ankle, this form of arthritis develops quickly, causing severe pain, swelling, fever and difficulty moving the ankle.

Ankle tests

Physical examination: A GP's examination of the ankle may identify whether an ankle fracture, sprain, or another condition is present.

Ankle X-ray: An X-ray of the ankle is most commonly used to determine a fracture, arthritis or other problems.

Stress X-ray: A doctor puts pressure on an injured ankle and takes an X-ray. Also called a stress film or a stress test, this may uncover ankle problems unseen on regular X-rays.

Magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI scan): An MRI scanner uses a high-powered magnet and a computer to create high-resolution images of the ankle.

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