One complaint that we hear every so often in our clinic is that a patient’s ankle seems to be catching, freezing or “locking up” during certain movements. While it may not be outwardly painful, it certainly can be uncomfortable and make for a daily annoyance. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why your ankle might be catching, and how the problem can be treated by a foot specialist.
My Ankle Keeps Catching
There could be a couple different factors at play, but for most individuals who describe a catching or locking up sensation, they are likely dealing with what’s known as an osteochondral lesion. An osteochondral lesion is a condition that involves an injury to the bottom bone of the ankle joint – the talus. The injury affects both the bone and the overlying protective cartilage. This can damage the smooth cartilage, making movement more difficult or leading to the development of cyst-like lesions in the area which can also impede normal range of motion. These developments can lead to this “catching” sensation you’re experiencing when moving your ankle in certain directions.
The vast majority of these lesions develop as a result of trauma to the ankle joint. Ankle sprains are a leading cause of osteochondral lesion onset, as are ankle fractures. Because of this, falls and sporting activities are two leading causes of injury that leads to osteochondral lesion development.
Symptoms of osteochondral lesions vary depending on the severity of the damage. As we mentioned above, for some, they may only experience mild discomfort when the ankle catches or locks up. Others may experience more noticeable symptoms which can include:
Repeated Ankle Sprains
Limited Range of Motion
Diagnosing and Treating Ankle Catching
Don’t just try to push through being uncomfortable, because the condition is unlikely to get any better on its own. In fact, symptoms may worsen and the condition can get harder to treat. Instead, set up an appointment with a foot specialist in your area.
During this appointment, your doctor will ask about your symptoms, review your medical history and conduct a physical exam of the ankle. They may physically manipulate the ankle joint or ask you to perform a few movement exercises to see the joint in motion. They may then order an imaging exam to confirm their suspicions. An x-ray is most common, but an MRI or CT scan may also be ordered to provide a clearer picture of the lesion.
Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. For some, conservative care may be all that is needed. Conservative care usually includes immobilization and restricted weight bearing, followed by weight bearing progression and targeted physical therapy to improve range of motion. This gives the cartilage time to heal and helps to improve joint function.
For more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. The goal of surgery is to restore a normal shape and cartilage surface to the talus so that the joint can function as intended. The surgeon may debride the cartilage, stabilize the joint or address the cyst, depending on what is needed. Surgery has a high rate of success, but your specific surgery will be determined by your needs and goals after a discussion with your surgeon.
So if your ankle is catching and causing discomfort, reach out to Dr. Silverman’s office for a diagnois and a treatment plan. For more information, contact Silverman Ankle & Foot today.