After a run, you notice some swelling on the inside of your ankle. You do a little research – or maybe a lot -- and discover there is a ligament there, the deltoid ligament. This ligament runs along the inside of your ankle, from the medial malleolus (the bump on the inside of your ankle) to the bones in the foot. The deltoid ligament stops you from rolling your ankle inward. Although this ligament is not injured as commonly as the ligaments on the outside of the ankle, if you run a fair amount or run on uneven ground, you may develop irritation to it. Knowing the different causes of deltoid ligament inflammation encountered while running can help you prevent ankle injuries.
Ligament damage, also known as an ankle sprain, is a common cause of deltoid ligament inflammation from running. This can happen when the foot lands on uneven terrain and your ankle rolls inward. The stretch placed on the deltoid ligament by this landing can result in a partial or complete tear causing inflammation, as your body brings blood to the area to aid in the healing process.
Ankle fractures are basically a more severe ankle sprain, but rather than tearing the ligament, you break a bone of the ankle. Similar to ankle sprains, ankle fractures typically occur when the foot lands in a bad position on the ground and rolls inward. When the ligament tears off of the bone, bringing a piece of bone with it, it is called an avulsion fracture.
Poorly Fitting Shoes
Sometimes the best-looking running shoes are not the right ones for your foot type. Proper fitting shoes are imperative for running safely. Think of it this way: your foot can hit the ground with the force of three times your body weight up to 1000 times per mile. A poorly fitting shoe can cause deltoid ligament inflammation while running by holding your foot in a pronated, or out-turned, position. The repetitive stress may partially tear the deltoid ligament, causing inflammation.
What You Can Do to Decrease the Inflammation
Although inflammation is your body’s response to injury, it can be bothersome and prolong healing time. When athletes obtain an injury, the first thing the athletic trainer tells them is RICE. Unfortunately, buying a bag of rice isn’t the solution. RICE is the acronym that stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest: take some time off from your activities to allow your body to heal, at least 1 to 2 days. Ice should be placed on the injury for 15 to 20 minutes, and then removed for 15 to 20 minutes. You may repeat this process as long as you want. Compression is used to limit the swelling in the injured area and provide additional support. This is typically done with an elastic bandage or trainer’s tape. Elevate the injured area to decrease inflammation by helping blood return to your heart.
What Else Could It Be?
The deltoid ligament is located very close to several other muscles, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels in the ankle. Damage to any one of these structures may cause inflammation around the deltoid ligament, which can easily be mistaken for inflammation of the deltoid ligament itself. It is best to see a medical professional if you believe you may have an injury. Remember, only a doctor can properly diagnose any injury you may have and provide proper treatment, getting you back to running without pain as soon as possible.
- Anatomy of the Ankle Ligaments: A Pictoral Essay
- Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology and Arthroscopy; Management of Acute Lateral Ankle Ligament Injuries in the Athlete; M.P. Van den Bekerom et al.
- MedlinePlus: Ankle Pain
- Cedars-Sinai: Ankle Fractures
- Barefoot Running: Biomechanics of Foot Strikes
- University Health Services: RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation for Injuries
- Preventing Running Injuries: Practical Approach for Family Doctors
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Sprained Ankle
Based in Pittsburgh, Penn., Alandra Greenlee is co-founder of two startups. Using her medical degree, she is dedicated to spreading health and knowledge through digital health. Greenlee specializes in fitness, nutrition and basic health writing. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from Michigan State University.