The sciatic nerve is the longest, and it runs from the pelvic area down to the legs or feet. When the nerve suffers pressure due to a bone spur, a herniated disc, or having strained a muscle, pain is experienced. The pain will usually originate from the lower back, into the buttock, and to the leg or foot. Sciatica is pain felt in the ankle area usually caused by irritation or damage of the sciatic nerve.
Causes of sciatic pain in the ankle
- A prolapsed disc is the most common cause of ankle sciatica.
- Spinal stenosis is a degenerative condition that can also cause pain.
Common symptoms of Sciatica in the Ankles
Sciatica in the ankles has various symptoms, but they depend on the severity of one’s condition and start. They will mostly include;
- A tingling or prickling sensation.
- Numbness in the ankle.
- Shooting sensations within the ankle.
- Ankle weakness.
Ignoring the symptoms may cause extra damage and possibly delay their correction or rehabilitation.
Diagnosing Sciatica in the ankle
Once the doctor suspects that you have Sciatica and it’s causing ankle pain, they will perform a physical exam to check how strong the muscles are and also one’s reflexes. You may be requested to walk on your toes or heels for them to make a proper diagnosis of the cause of your pain.
When the pain is severe, they may order imaging scans to check for herniated discs or bone spurs.
The scans done may be:
- MRI scan. It will use magnets and radio waves to get a detailed look at the back and spine by creating pictures.
- X-ray, which will check for any bone spurs.
- Electromyography (EMG). The test measures how fast nerve signals are transmitted through the body to determine issues such as a herniated disc.
- CT scan. It is a combination of a series of X-rays that provides a detailed look into the spine and the spinal nerves.
- Hot and cold therapy- Use heat and cold packs alternating on the ankle area to relieve pain. (more here)
- Physiotherapy- A Physiotherapy program will usually resolve sciatica of the ankle. A personalized and structured program will be very effective when treating the symptoms. Exercises that improve posture, increase flexibility, and make back muscles stronger can be done. The therapist may conduct a passive stretch of the achilles tendon. The tendon serves to connect the heel bone and the muscles in the back of the calf.
- Home exercise programs– These will strengthen the muscles and reduce swelling on the ankle. Ankle stretches can also help reduce the effects of the symptoms.
- Medication- Once you suspect that you have Sciatica in your ankle and have seen a general practitioner about it, they may recommend painkillers, anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants after tests are conducted.
- Steroid injections- These will help with any inflammation that is within the sciatic nerve to reduce pain.
- Hydrotherapy. The hydrostatic pressure will reduce any swelling to encourage blood flow and regain motion range in the ankle.
- Electrotherapy- The treatment will use electricity to reduce the pain, repair damaged tissues, strengthen muscles, and improve blood circulation.
- Surgery- Surgery will usually be considered when the problem becomes extensive. However, it is rare. It may be done to take out a prolapsed disc or a bone spur that may be pressing the sciatic nerve resulting into ankle pain.
When Sciatica causes pain in the ankles, one can treat the symptoms by employing simple treatments. A physiotherapy program is usually best for the ankle pain to be resolved, but there are other available options. The time taken for rehabilitation depends on your symptoms and how long you have had them.
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