The feet and ankles are some of the body’s most complex and hardest-working structures. However, all that work puts them at risk for a variety of injuries. If you’re experiencing swelling and persistent pain in the lower ankle near the heel, a subtalar joint issue may be to blame. Here’s what you should know about the subtalar joint, including potential problems and treatment options, and how the exceptionally skilled foot and ankle specialists at Massapequa Podiatry Associates can offer effective solutions for relieving pain and discomfort.
Understanding Foot and Ankle Anatomy: The Subtalar Joint
Located in the rear part of the foot, the subtalar joint—also known as the talocalcaneal joint—connects the heel bone (the calcaneus) to the bone that forms the lower part of the ankle (the talus). A multi-articular joint, the subtalar joint can move in multiple directions and plays an essential role in walking, running, and posture. This joint enables your foot to roll inward (pronate) and outward (supinate) during normal motion which, in turn, allows you to move your foot side to side, pivot for a quick directional change, and navigate uneven ground without rolling your ankles.
Signs and Symptoms of Subtalar Joint Problems
Arthritis, instability, and impingement are some of the most common issues that can affect subtalar joint function. Whether the damage is the result of a traumatic injury, age-related wear and tear, or an autoimmune disease, signs and symptoms associated with subtalar joint problems include:
- Persistent pain on either or both sides of the foot, near the heel
- Pain that worsens with physical activities or standing for long periods
- Difficulty walking, especially on slopes or uneven terrain
- Muscle spasms on the outside of the lower leg
- Progressive loss of joint function
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Subtalar joint injuries require prompt treatment to avoid permanent damage or deformity. At Massapequa Podiatry Associates, our adept podiatrists, Dr. Corey Fox and Dr. Justin LoBello, can diagnose this condition following a thorough physical examination and discussion of your symptoms and medical history. In some cases, we may use X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, and other methods to gather more information to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment will vary depending on the type and severity of your subtalar joint problem. Our doctors will work with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your needs and lifestyle.
- R.I.C.E. (resting, icing, compression, and elevation)
- Over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory drugs
- Custom orthotics
- Immune-system-suppressing drugs (for cases caused by autoimmune disease)
- Physical therapy
- Arthroscopy (a minimally-invasive surgical procedure that allows podiatric surgeons to visualize and treat issues inside the subtalar joint)
- Open surgery such as joint fusion
We also offer a wide range of advanced interventions, including laser therapy, shockwave therapy, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. Although we try to address issues conservatively whenever possible, in some cases, surgical intervention may provide the best results. In fact, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research, subtalar joint fusion surgery is considered the “gold standard” treatment for severe cases.
Helping You Get Back on Your Feet
Massapequa Podiatry Associates is committed to providing exceptional patient care. When subtalar joint discomfort, pain, or instability threatens to keep you sitting on the sidelines, our podiatrists can help you get back on your feet and doing what you love as quickly and safely as possible.
Schedule an Appointment With One of Our Long Island Foot Specialists
Don’t let subtalar joint pain dictate what you can and can’t do. Complete our online contact form, or call our office at 516-541-9000 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fox or Dr. LoBello.