Mountain goats are an astounding creature. They are able to bound up and down steep mountainsides with the greatest of ease. Their ability to traverse rocky terrain at great speeds is an impressive sight to witness. Sadly humans, with our itty-bitty calves and rotating ankles, struggle on even the smoothest of surfaces. As runners, we are incredibly susceptible to ankle injuries. There are a number of ways the ankle can become injured and, chances are, most runners will experience one of these ailments at some point in their career.
The first and most common ankle injury is an ankle sprain. This is an acute injury that occurs when a runner lands on an uneven surface with a large amount of force, causing his ankle to turn which can stretch or tear a tendon. This injury will cause pain when bearing weight. Ankle sprains are most likely to happen to trail runners due to the rugged terrain on which they run. If you recently turned your ankle on a run and notice considerable pain, it is important that you immediately employ the RICE method, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate. The goal of this method is to increase blood-flow to the ankle region and decrease inflammation. It is recommended that you not return to running until the pain has sufficiently decreased. If the pain persists for more than a few days, you should contact a doctor to determine if the injury is more serious than a sprain.
A second cause of ankle pain while running is tendonitis. Unlike ankle sprains, which are always acute injuries, tendonitis tends to be an overuse injury, though it can be caused by acute trauma as well. Overworking the tendons of the lower leg leads to them developing small tears that cause inflammation and pain. The most common form of tendonitis that affects the ankle region is called posterior tibial tendonitis. If you have not recently turned an ankle on a run, yet you feel pain on the inside of your ankle, review this in-depth article about posterior tibial tendonitis.
The final type of injury that can affect an ankle is a stress fracture (a break in the ankle bone). The symptoms of a stress fracture are similar to those of a serious ankle sprain: pain when the ankle bears weight and a dull, throbbing pain when it is elevated. But whereas pain from a sprain tends to diminish after several days of employing the RICE method, stress fractures can take weeks or months before the injury is entirely healed. For this reason, if you experience extreme ankle pain for more than a few days, it is important to contact a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and discuss treatment methods.
When an ankle injury heals, rehab is often required before returning to running. Injuries can leave the ankle weak, so it is important to properly strengthen that region before pursuing aggressive exercise. While stress fractures and tendonitis often require specific plans developed by sports medicine professionals, the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society published a recommended strength routine for those who have recently experienced a minor ankle sprain.
It is important that each runner be cautious when running to avoid turning an ankle on rugged terrain. Ankle injuries happen to almost every runner. When an injury does occur, make sure to take the proper steps to heal it so you can be back running as soon as possible.