Wrapping an ankle injury may get you through the day, but ignoring the problem or delaying treatment may make the condition worse. A local foot and ankle surgeon has a message for those suffering from ankle pain, whether it is an old injury that might not have healed properly or one that had limited treatment options in the past: Get your ankles checked. There are new advancements in regenerative medicine which include laser therapy and stem cell injections.
According to Dr. Kerry Zang, podiatric medical director of Arizona Institute of Footcare Physicians and a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, many who have suffered ankle sprains in the past could be at risk for more serious damage as they age and try to stay in good physical condition. It is estimated that one in four sports injuries involves the foot or ankle, and a majority of them occur from incomplete rehabilitation of earlier injuries.
“Many older adults who have had a previous injury that wasn’t fully rehabilitated may experience swelling and pain as they increase their physical activity,” says Dr. Zang. “But pain isn’t normal in the ankle area, even if you’re starting to get back in shape.”
Dr. Zang adds that both serious athletes and weekend sports participants often misunderstand how serious a sprain can be, and they rush back into action without taking time to rehabilitate the injury properly. “A sprain that happened years ago can leave residual weakness that isn’t noticed in normal daily activity, but subjecting the ankle to rigorous physical activity can further damage improperly healed ligaments, and cause persistent pain and swelling,” he says.
Recently, there have been very exciting breakthroughs for addressing ankle pain that can be done in the office setting. These treatments center on ways for healing to begin. “Regenerative therapy stimulates the body’s own natural healing process to repair chronically damaged tissue,” explains Dr. Zang. “Unlike cortisone injections, which suppress inflammation and stop healing, the goal of this therapy is to create a small amount of localized inflammation to help trigger the body to strengthen and repair the area.”
Stem cell therapy also works to promote healing. “Human amniotic membrane tissue reduces inflammation and scar tissue formation and enhances soft tissue healing,” says Dr. Zang. “We are finding that it is improving the patient’s quality of life.”