The ankle joint is susceptible to many injuries: Sprains, fractures and arthritic conditions are common in the ankles. Athletes, who commonly make quick direction changes and run on uneven surfaces, are at a higher risk for ankle injuries.
The ankle joint consists of the distal end of the tibia and fibula and the proximal end of the talus. These bones are held together by several strong, fibrous ligaments and tendons. The ends of the bones are protected by cartilage and the space in the joint is protected and cushioned by a synovial membrane. This is why the ankle is considered a synovial joint.
If you suffer from ankle synovitis or are seeking to prevent its occurrence it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that's just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
The synovial membrane, and the fluid contained within it, help provide cushioning for the large forces placed on the joint, and the constant impact of walking, running and jumping. The fluid also lubricates the joint to allow for movement. This tissue, like any tissue, can become inflamed and irritated.
What is Ankle Synovitis?
Ankle Synovitis is an injury to the synovial membrane in the ankle. It is an inflammation of the synovium that causes pain and swelling. This inflammation can result in excess fluid leaking into the joint, which can result in a blockage of nutrients to the surrounding surfaces, a degradation of the cartilage, and instability in the joint. The inflammation may also result in swelling of the membrane placing extra pressure on the surfaces of the joint.
Anatomy of the Ankle
The ankle joint is surrounded by a synovial membrane that cushions and protects the bone ends that articulate the ankle joint. This membrane provides cushion and lubrication for the joint. Although the ends of the bones involved, the tibia, fibula, and talus, are covered with cartilage, the synovial membrane cushions the open space, keeping the bone ends separated just enough to allow movement. The synovial fluid also provides lubrication to the joint, which further protects the bones and reduces friction.
This membrane can become inflamed and cause an increase in the fluid inside the cavity or swell, causing increased pressure on the structures of the joint. This may cause an uneven, or excessive, wear to the cartilage at the end of the bones.
What Causes Ankle Synovitis?
Ankle synovitis can be caused by prior injuries to the joint, such as sprains or fractures. These injuries may result in acute damage directly to the synovial membrane, or they could cause an imbalance or misalignment of the bones leading to a chronic condition. Chronic imbalance or misalignment issues can also cause irritation to the synovium. It can also be caused by an infection, either bacterial or viral, in the area. Rheumatoid arthritis or gout may lead to synovitis. Reduced strength or muscular imbalances are also possible causes for injuries to the synovial membrane.
Signs and Symptoms
This condition may be accompanied by pain and heat in the ankle joint. The pain may range from mild aching to a sharp burning pain. Swelling and inflammation deep in the ankle joint may also be associated with ankle synovitis. It may or may not be visible on the exterior of the joint. A reduced range of motion and loss of function may occur, depending on the degree of pain and inflammation involved. When excess fluid is released into the joint, or severe swelling occurs within the synovium, a tightness may be felt in the joint itself, further reducing range of motion.
Rest, ice and NSAIDs will help reduce the inflammation and reduce stress on the synovial membrane. Heat may be used later to improve function and reduce stiffness within the joint. Corticosteroid injections and a walking cast (or boot) may be necessary for more severe injury.
A correction of the condition that caused the inflammation will also be required to prevent it from occurring again. This may require intervention by a physical therapist or sports medicine professional. Orthotic devices might help correct imbalances and structural issues within the foot. This condition will usually respond in 3 to 5 weeks of treatment.
Prevention for ankle synovitis itself may be difficult due to the secondary nature of this injury, but avoiding the injuries or disease processes that can lead to this condition will help reduce the likelihood of developing synovitis.
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of exercises. So to improve your athletic ability, reduce injuries and really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you wherever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.