What's wrong with my ankle?

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Hi there, I've been having this strange troublesome problem that's going on with my left ankle.

Some background info on the history of my ankle. When I was in Highschool, I got in a sports (soccer/football) injury in which my school's star player accidentally kicked me really hard in the foot. I couldn't walk right after the accidental kick since my foot just instantly collapsed and my friend helped me to the sidelines to rest. I didn't get my ankle treated right away since I'm an idiot and had a complex about over-acting that it hurt (but it did hurt, I just didn't want people to think I was acting hurt and seeking attention). Also, my PE teacher was way more interested in treating my classmate who was also a good football (soccer) player who got injured in a separate incident from mine. I got treated almost about 4 hours later(?) when I got home and my mom put some ointment on it and wrapped it up. By then though, my whole ankle just turned black and blue and it was really hard to walk.

was supposed to rest for a couple weeks from PE while it healed but since I still had that complex about 'faking the injury', I prematurely joined PE again since the bruising had almost faded and it didn't really particularly hurt. But like an idiot, I tripped again and ended up spraining the same foot again. The bruising came back, but each time it got 'visually' better, I just joined PE class again, and I sprained it again. It was fine sometimes, but my ankle would just like crack to the side whenever it felt like it (even outside PE). Sometimes my other ankle (the right one) would also do the same thing, but it was less often. It's usually the left one.

Supposedly, I've gone to several doctors who said that my ankle was just fine. I went to get a CT scan and they said that nothing was wrong. I went to several doctors who offered different explanations: that I'm flat footed so I have a tendency to trip more, it's a sprain that never healed, I'm flexible so I trip, etc. I even got told that I was walking 'wrong' and it was the reason why I sprain my ankles so much. 

Almost about 5-6 years has passed since the accident in high school. I really haven't gone to any real doctor to get my foot examined since then. Every treatment I went through didn't solve whatever is up with my ankle. My parents found a Chinese Doctor(?) who tried to fix my ankle when I went back home (to Indonesia, where my hometown is). He aggressively massaged my ankle (which hurt a ton and I felt like it made it worse because it ached a lot during his 'treatment'wink. He told me that if I trip after his treatment that it was my fault (which parents agree) because I wasn't walking right. I don't know if this made it worse, but I had to pretend that it got healed because my parents wouldn't let me stop taking the treatment since they had anecdotes of him solving their issues (my mother's back problem and my brother's shoulder). However, I couldn't stand the pain and decided that acting healed and never asking help from my parents again for my ankle was a better alternative than go through his massaging again, since it hurt so bad. I don't know if this is anything significant, but I wanted to include it just in case.

However, despite the treatement, every now and then I trip every so often and sprain my ankles (mostly left and sometimes the right). On some days, I feel my ankle (usually the left one) ache and if I try to bend my foot to the side (laterally), it hurts. Sometimes, on bad days, it would hurt when I bend my foot forward. It usually hurts to press the area where the bruising of a sprain would be, even if I haven't gotten a sprain recently and there's no bruise. It doesn't terribly bother me when I'm walking normally, but if I walk for long distances my ankle usually aches and I feel like I might trip sometime soon.

I want to go to a doctor now that I live on my own and see their opinion, but I wanted to see if anyone online could offer an explanation. Does anyone have an idea what's wrong with my ankle? I've always been afraid (because of this stupid complex I have) that I was subconsciously trying to get attention and pity from others by faking(?) spraining my ankle. I still have memories of various doctors in the past tell me that nothing was wrong, so I'm worried maybe I'm just making this bigger than it needs to be.

Help and advice would be much appreciated. 

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11 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Freya,

    I listened to your story with interest and sympathy.

    You seem to understand now that you shouldn't have pretended all along that your ankle was fine despite your ankle screaming out for you to pay attention to it and help it heal. You've had a long, disappointing  journey, seeing doctors, constantly re-spraining your ankle, and now you are here. (I wonder if your foot was ever x-rayed to check for fractures?).

    It sounds like your ankle is sick and that joint is now chronically unstable (from untreated sprains).

    I would venture to say that your best bet now is to find a sharp, sympathetic foot and ankle doctor who specializes in cases like yours. He or she will probably want to order imaging tests (ultrasound or MRI) to observe condition of ligaments, tendons, etc. And then recommend a treatment strategy to rehab that poor ankle.

    Good luck to you.

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    • Posted

      Thanks for reading my story, kpower.

      To answer your question about fractures, I never had my foot x-rayed after the accident. I had a friend suggest that maybe I did get a hairline fracture at the time, but since I was young and my parents didn't really understand how bad it was, I didn't get it looked over by a doctor or anything. That the fracture healed naturally and that was what causes the pain in my ankle from time to time. I did get a CAT Scan almost 2 or 3 years later and nothing was wrong, supposedly, but my memory's fuzzy; I might have sprained my other ankle at the time and gotten the wrong ankle scanned. My right ankle isn't as nearly bad as my left. I think that my right ankle gives out some times because it's tired of supporting my left foot since I tend to limp/slide my feet a lot.

      I do think that it is a good idea is to find an ankle doctor, and I've been looking around my area (I live in Auckland, New Zealand at the moment), but most ankle doctors here are Foot & Ankle Surgeons. Would they be okay to consult about my ankle injury?

      Thanks again, for your advice.

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  • Posted

    Sounds like your ankle gets unstable?
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    • Posted

      It does, quite often. Sometimes, I feel it wobble and I find myself randomly losing balance when I'm walking. Though more commonly I find myself tripping, though sometimes I can recover myself and save myself from a sprain.

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  • Posted

    My experience was similar - I got injured in high school and didn't rehab my ankles correctly and many doctors weren't helpful at all. 

    You need to find a good doctor that will take x rays and then order some MRIs. Usually Physiotherapy is recommended at first (ie. conservative treatment).

    My path was to get referred to a sports medicine doctor and ask to get referred to an orthopedist (orthopedic surgeon). He ordered MRIs and referred me to that doctor. I would also recommend seeing a podiatrist as well and make sure you don't have any other issues (abnormal gait, foot deformities, excessive pronation, etc.). Because you've suffered with this for some time, it's possible your body is trying to compensate which could lead to long-term problems.

    Do you feel like your ankles are "loose"? Is there a clicking noise coming from the outside of your ankle?

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    • Posted

      Even though I wish we both met a doctor who was sympathetic, it's nice to hear from someone with a similar story as I do. I am planning to go see a doctor about this ankle sometime in the near future.

      I've never heard of a podiatrist in my entire life, but looking it up, it looks like somebody I might need to consult too about my ankle injury. I tend to slide my feet a lot since I spent a lot of my life limping from my constant re-spraining. Maybe they would have something to say about that.

      I don't think I hear anything clicking until I trip. At that point, I would hear and feel my ankle crunch (only my left). After that, if I try to rotate my ankle to stretch it out, I would feel something click, but I wouldn't hear anything. After a while, the clicking feeling goes away, but the aches come and I rather not try to stretch my ankle at all at this point. As for the loose bit, I'm not sure. I do feel sometimes my ankle gets really weak and it looks like it'll sprain anytime soon so I try to walk carefully.

      Thanks for the advice, Andrei. Much appreciated.

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    • Posted

      Glad you're taking care of this now!

      You mentioning being flat footed and doctors saying that you're walking "wrong" suggests there might be a biomechanical issue. A good Podiatrist should be able to identify this. It's something they specialize in. Please be aware that some podiatrists will push expensive custom made orthotics regardless of whether or not it's the best course of action. Usually this makes them more money. I found my podiatrist by looking up podiatrist on Google and checking out the reviews.

      You might have broken something in your ankle and it never healed properly. I'm in Canada and here you usually need a referral to see a specialist such as an Orthopedic surgeon. Sports medicine doctors and podiatrists will know who the good surgeons are. Ask who they would recommend for you to see for this issue. Don't be afraid to ask more than one doctor as well.

      I would also prepare myself for the option of surgery with a long recovery time. Hopefully with physio and some changes you won't need this but as they say - prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Personally I've gone through multiple ankle surgeries but everytime they've been worth it.

      Best of luck, and I'd be glad to answer any other questions! I know how frustrating it is when it feels like nobody listens and you don't know any better - you just know it's not right.

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  • Posted

    Hi Freya.... I think you need to get to a GOOD ankle and foot specialist (surgeon) and the sooner the better. The way it sounds to me, you are just waiting for a real break, and then you will be laid up for many months with a lot of pain.  A good specialist will take X-rays and know exactly what he is looking at. You may need some preventative measures taken.... best of luck to you!
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    • Posted

      I think you're definitely right about seeing a good ankle and foot specialist. Some clarification, there are some ankle and foot surgeons around my area; so would they be the correct people to consult about my problem?

      Honestly, I'm surprised that I haven't broken this ankle yet, but like you said, I feel like that's an accident waiting to happen when I least expect it. I'll be sure to go see a doctor as soon as I can. 

      Thanks very much, Janny.

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    • Posted

      Yes, I would definitely consult an ankle/foot surgeon about your problem. He will take X-rays or MRI and see what is going on in that ankle. That is his specialty and it is as much his job to prevent damage as to repair it, so I wouldn’t worry that because he is a surgeon he will automatically want to do surgery. The point is, he will know what is going on in there.  I am just afraid that you could easily break that ankle but it just hasn’t happened yet...and believe me, YOU DO NOT WANT THAT TO HAPPEN! My broken ankle is the worst thing that has ever happened to me...not only the pain involved but just the inconvenience of being laid up and not being able to walk already for over 2 months and looking at several more before I’m back to halfway normal. It is so depressing. We all take our good feet so much for granted, so please get yourself checked out before it’s too late and you are sorry you waited! 
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  • Posted

    Freya,

    I'm glad you started an intelligent discussion with other posters here. It all sounds like good advice.

    When you see a foot and ankle doctor (hopefully as soon as you can-- please don't fall into trap of procrastination) be prepared for some doctor recommending surgery (most foot doctors seem to be surgeons too). After all, surgery is what they do for a living. But surgery is always a last recourse (and irrevocable) decision after all other conservative measures fail.

    But many patients unfortunately elect surgery as their first recourse.

    Depending on how much chronic damage your ankle has sustained over a long time, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise once a competent ankle doctor does his full diagnostic workup. But don't let fear of unknown deter you from going through this step. It is a must.

    Most certainly you have a chronically unstable ankle joint, whether you broke any bones along the way or not. That is what is causing your walking instability and frequent sprains. It will be progressive over time and likely could lead to ankle arthritis as well, which then leads to ankle dysfunction and calls for more surgery, like ankle fusion.

    By the way, the 'clicking' sound you hear in your ankle can be caused, among other reasons, by lax ligaments slapping against bone. And by now I can imagine you have very loose ligaments (causing ankle joint unstableness).

    Best wishes.

     

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