If you’ve ever heard your ankle crack or pop, you’re not alone. Many people may experience this popping sensation in their ankles, which can be quite alarming. There is actually a medical term for this — crepitus, which refers to the abnormal crackling or popping of joints.
But what does it mean? Is something wrong with your ankle? Before charging off to seek help from an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist, let’s first explore the causes of ankle cracking and popping and give you some useful tips for dealing with it.
Possible Causes of Ankle Cracking & Popping
Ankle popping and cracking can be caused by a peroneal subluxation or dislocation. This is when the peroneal tendons, which run along the outside of the ankle, slip out of place. This slippage can be due to an ankle sprain, unstable ankles, or other injuries.
One way to tell if you are having this type of subluxation is excessive popping or cracking along the outside of your ankle, affecting the motion in your foot.
2. Tendon or ligament injury
In addition to moving out of place, an injury to the peroneal tendon can also result in ankle instability and difficulty walking.
On the other hand, ligament injuries can also lead to ankle popping sounds. Ligaments are tough bands of fibrous connective tissue that surround joints and hold them together. Ligaments are flexible yet strong, allowing us to bend and stretch with ease while still maintaining structural support for our bones. A ligament tear or rupture in the ankle joint is a common sports injury, which occurs due to sudden twisting motions.
When to Seek Medical Help
Some people have loose ligaments or fluid-filled sacs that allow them to crack their bones more easily than other people. When you crack your knuckles or toes, you cause a gas bubble in the joint to collapse. This is thought to be what causes the noise, and the sensation felt when cracking your bones.
As for popping your ankle, since your muscles control how much movement is in your joints, it’s not surprising that your muscle strength fluctuates from day to day. This can cause your joints to pop as they move in and out of place.
Some ankle popping is not a cause for concern. Still, if you have chronic pain or difficulty walking, you should see an orthopaedic foot and ankle specialist to nip the problem in the bud and prevent the need for ankle surgery. Depending on the severity and cause of your pain, your doctor may recommend treatments such as physical therapy, arch supports, medication, or surgery.
1. Ankle exercises
There are several exercises that you can do to strengthen your ankle joint. One example is to stand on one leg and then slowly raise the other leg off the ground.
You can try doing ankle circles, in which you rotate your ankle in a circular motion. In addition, you can also try doing wall push-ups, where you hold your ankle at a 90-degree angle and press it against a wall.
These three exercises will help strengthen your ankle joint and increase your range of motion, mitigating potential future problems that could arise from weak ankles.
If your ankle is weak and could use some help, over-the-counter or custom orthotics could help fix them. Orthotics are special insoles that you can wear inside your shoes to give your foot better support. They are generally used to reduce pressure on specific tendons that are causing the popping sounds and improve joint alignment. You could also consider getting arch supports, which are wedges between the foot and the shoe that go under the arch of the foot to lift it up and provide it with more support.
If all else fails, your orthopaedic specialist may recommend surgery as a last resort. This is especially so if your ankle popping and cracking sounds are caused by an underlying condition or tendon damage that needs to be addressed. It’s best to start by consulting a trusted foot and ankle doctor in Singapore, such as OrthofootMD to get a proper diagnosis of your ankle condition. Our experienced team will be able to help pinpoint the cause of your ankle discomfort and provide a treatment plan for a speedy recovery.
If you would like to book a consultation, or learn more about ankle cartilage and ankle ligament surgery, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help.