Lower leg, ankle and foot pain are very common and can be caused by a number of factors. If there is no direct trauma, there may be other issues involved such as a repetitive injury to the joints and/or soft tissues, low back or hip dysfunction, muscular imbalance in the lower extremity or core, stress fracture from a repetitive injury, arthritis, and more.
Some common injuries that can occur in the lower leg, foot and ankle include:
This is one of the most common overuse injuries in athletes (typically distance runners and basketball players). However, it is also common in middle aged women. Plantar fasciitis is a strain of the flexor digitorum brevis muscle and plantar fascia on the bottom of the foot. Inflammation then occurs where these tissues attached to the heel bone (calcanues).
Signs & Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis:
- Pain on the bottom of the foot in the heel or arch for several days or months
- Came on gradually and is usually not associated with trauma
- Pain with standing, walking and running
- Increased pain first thing in the morning upon standing up after getting out of bed
- Tired achy feet
- Foot cramps
- Tight calves
This condition can be easily treated with soft tissue therapies (such as Active Release Technique), improving faulty biomechanics of the foot/lower legs, and with proper footwear.
This is one of the most common sport injuries and can quite frequently happen during normal daily activities. A sprain occurs when one or more ligaments in the ankle have been stretched or even torn. If treated properly, they usually do not result in long term complications. If left untreated, however, ankle sprains can result in longer lasting problems like reduced strength and muscle coordination, poor balance and increased likelihood of re-injury to the affected ankle. They can also result in compensations occuring elsewhere in the body which may present as pain in the knee, hip, low back, etc. Even though treatment as soon as possible is ideal, it is never too late to seek treatment for an ankle sprain.
Shin splints present as pain in the lower leg, either along the front of the shin or behind it. The two most common cause of shin splints are strains of different muscles of the leg. Repetitive impact is usually the cause of this condition which may be from running, dancing, gymnastics, volleyball, soccer, basketball or other impact sports. It may also be caused by long distance running, hill training, running on hard or uneven surfaces, changes in running route, changes in activity, poor shoes, poor conditioning, inadequate warm-ups or over-training. This can be quite debilitating if not assessed and treated, therefore it is important to seek help before this becomes a bigger problem.
Several treatment options available to solve many painful conditions affecting the lower leg: