At the end of last week, a 60-something lady was brought to me complaining of a very painful ankle, three weeks after she tripped and fell whilst walking in the Bush.
She was uncertain which way her ankle had bent when she fell, but said there was a lot of swelling and bruising, which was only now starting to go down. Whilst in the Bush she had managed only basic First Aid with a bandage, to keep the swelling down so that she could get her foot into her trainers, but walking was extremely painful.
During my examination I isolated a point of severe pain over the tip of the lateral malleolus. [That’s the bit of your fibula that sticks out on the outside of your ankle joint]. The area was also swollen and hot to touch. Moving the ankle caused pain and the lady walked with a stiff-legged limp. The provisional diagnosis was to eliminate a fracture as the ankle joint is very stable and usually the injury in these situations is of severe ligament damage. However, because of the local symptoms I was thinking fracture. The obvious thing to do was send for X-ray.
The X-ray report confirmed a fracture of the tip of the fibula bone, only slightly displaced, fortunately. However, perhaps more importantly, the radiologist reported the appearance of ‘low bone density’ and therefore the possibility of osteoporosis.
The lady is now wearing a “Moonboot” below knee walker – with some difficulty – and was referred to her GP for investigation into the low bone density, which is now underway.
Now I know this isn’t really podiatry, but when questioned further, before I referred her, the lady revealed that she had never had a mammogram or bone density test. These tests are as important for older women as the prostrate examination is for men.
So if you have a fall or trip, don’t just put it down to a sprained ankle and put up with pain; monitor the pain, bruising and swelling. Also, ladies, don’t wait for the next time you need an X-ray to check your bone density.
Remember: podiatrists don’t just treat feet, we treat people.