Patient Education

Acute Inflammation

Description

Plenty of things can cause inflammation in the foot or ankle. Acute inflammation is when the symptoms are caused by something suddenly happening to a foot, such as an injury (like spraining your ankle) or even sometimes an infection. Some people also experience chronic inflammation, which means that there are ongoing problems with the foot or ankle, like arthritis.

Although inflammation doesnt look pretty, and may be pretty alarming, its actually a natural response of the body to an injury. It happens because the body sends more blood to an injured area in order to promote healing. However, more blood also means that the body cant drain the area as effectively; the extra fluids can build up and put pressure on the nerves, making them pretty painful.

Symptoms

Whatever the cause of the inflammation, its likely to be rather uncomfortable, or even painful. The inflamed area often looks red, is warm to the touch, and is swollen (puffy is also a good termkind of like your foot or ankle is turning into a human-shaped marshmallow).

Treatment

Your podiatrist is really the best person to determine the cause of the inflammation, and then determine what treatments might be best. However, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more comfortable. Just remember RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Give it a Rest: dont try to walk around on your injured foot or ankle, and try not to move it around too much.

Applying Ice reduces bloodflow to the area and should make the swelling go down, which should also make the area less painful. Put ice in a bag, and wrap it up in a thin towel, then put the entire package onto the inflamed area for 20 minutes, then leave it off for 40 minutes. Keep repeating the procedure, but dont leave an icepack on while youre asleep, and if your skin starts to look blue or white, take the ice off right away and dont put it on again for at least a few hours. Also, never put ice directly on your skinyoure not trying to give yourself frostbite here, just reduce the swelling.

Compression also reduces bloodflow to the area and helps stabilize the foot and ankle. Wrap a bandage firmly but not tightly around your foot. Youll want the bandage to be a bit more snug around your toes, but not as tight at the base of your leg. If your foot starts to throb, your bandage is probably too tight; try loosening it a bit.

When you Elevate the area, it lets all that extra fluid drain back to the heart more easily, again reducing swelling in the area. To elevate properly, youll want the inflamed area to be about level with or slightly higher than your heart. If youre lying down, prop your foot up on a couple of pillows; make sure your knee is slightly bent while resting on the pillows don’t prop your foot up with your knee straight and your leg fully extended. If youre in a sitting position, keep your foot a little above your waist.

Remember, the RICE method is for reducing pain and swelling in the area; the underlying cause of the inflammation might require a visit to your foot doctor, who can suggest treatment methods for the specific injury you may have experienced. Some injuries may be quite serious and will require surgery. Be sure to talk to your podiatrist about all treatment options.