The anatomy of the ankle joint is important in understanding why popping, clicking, and cracking can occur. The bones that make up the ankle joint are the tibia and fibula on top of the talus bone underneath. In addition to these bones, there are several ligaments connecting them together as well as a capsule that surrounds them. All of these components are affected by movement around the ankle joint which can cause popping, clicking, and cracking noises.
In addition to understanding how these sounds are created, it is also important to understand what factors can contribute to their occurrence. Common causes include underlying medical conditions such as arthritis or gout as well as muscle imbalances or misalignment of joints due to poor posture or injuries.
Why Does My Ankle Keep Popping?
The painful popping of the ankle can be caused by a number of ankle injuries. Pops and clicks in the ankle are usually caused by ankle sprains, gas release, tendon rubbing, tendon subluxation, or tendon dislocation.
Gas release is a common cause of ankle popping, clicking, and cracking. When an ankle joint is moved around, a small pocket of air or gas may be created between the bones of the joint. This pocket can be released when the joint moves back into its original position, resulting in the audible noise commonly referred to as 'popping'. When an ankle pops, clicks or cracks due to gas release, it usually indicates that there is some degree of instability within the joint. In most cases, this instability can be corrected with strengthening exercises and physiotherapy targeting the muscles and ligaments surrounding the ankle joint. The peroneal tendons, which connect the calf muscles to the bones of the ankle, are also important for the stability of the ankle joint, and can be a source of ankle popping if they become irritated or inflamed.
Tendon rubbing causes include improper biomechanics of the foot such as flat feet or high arches, tightness in certain muscles in the calf area, increased activity levels leading to inflammation, and wearing incorrect footwear. It is important to identify the underlying cause of tendon rubbing so that an effective treatment plan can be developed. Treatment may include rest, anti-inflammatory medications, stretching exercises particular to the individual’s needs, physiotherapy if needed, custom orthotics to correct biomechanical issues in the feet, and/or specialized footwear.
Tendon subluxation is a condition in which a tendon slips out of its normal position. It can cause joint popping, ankle clicking and ankle cracking. Tendon subluxation is most commonly seen in the ankle but can affect other joints as well. The most common symptom of tendon subluxation is pain, although it may also be accompanied by swelling, stiffness, or decreased range of motion. If left untreated, it can lead to further damage to the joint or even tendon rupture. Tendon subluxation can often be prevented through proper stretching before physical activity and avoiding activities that involve sudden jerking movements or excessive stress on the joints. Additionally, wearing properly fitting shoes with adequate arch support can help prevent injuries that could lead to tendon subluxation.
Strengthening Your Ankles
Strengthening the ankle is essential for those looking to prevent re-injury or protect from further injury. Such an endeavor requires a holistic approach, one that seeks to bolster both muscles and ligaments alike. To that end, there are various ankle-strengthening exercises and strength training programs available for those wishing to improve ankle stability.
The most effective exercises for strengthening ankles involve the use of resistance bands and other forms of resistance that target the joint’s muscles and ligaments. These bands should be looped around the foot and then pulled up against the force of gravity in order to strengthen the peroneal muscles on the outside of the lower leg as well as strengthen ankle ligaments. Furthermore, calf raises can also be added to this regimen in order to build muscle mass around the joint, while balance boards can provide an additional challenge by working proprioceptive muscles in order to enhance stability.
In addition to these exercises, it is also beneficial to engage in some form of aerobic exercise such as walking or running on flat surfaces. This will help build endurance, balance, and coordination- all factors which contribute towards improved ankle strength over time. Additionally, regular stretching can be added into any program in order to improve flexibility around the area and further protect against injury. By taking these steps one can ensure their ankles remain strong and stable for years to come.
When To See A Physiotherapist
Ankle popping, clicking, and cracking can be an indication of a severe ankle injury. These sounds may indicate that the joint is not functioning as it should. If an individual experiences any of these symptoms or if they experience swelling, pain, or decreased range of motion in their ankle joint, they should consider seeking professional help from a physiotherapist.
When visiting a physiotherapist for ankle popping, clicking, and cracking issues, the individual can expect to undergo an evaluation of their ankle joint mobility and strength. The physiotherapist will assess the structure and stability of the ankle joint and its related structures. Through this assessment process, the physiotherapist can develop an effective plan to improve joint mobility and reduce further injury risk.
If you've noticed any ankle popping, clicking, and cracking, don't wait to get it checked out! Contact one of our licensed physiotherapists today to help you get back to living pain-free!