Ankle clonus refers to a series of involuntary jerks involving the muscles in the ankle, and may be a sign of neurological disorders. Let us look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this condition, in the following HealthHearty article.
The occurrence of involuntary, rhythmic muscle contractions and relaxations, is called clonus. Such involuntary jerks in the calf muscles give rise to repeated flexion and extension of the foot, which is termed ankle clonus. It may be a sign of neurological disorders that affect neuromuscular coordination. If one experiences just 1-2 beats, it does not indicate neurological problems. However, more than five beats may indicate a serious underlying disorder.
Ankle clonus can be the result of neurological conditions like:
- Spinal cord damage
- Multiple sclerosis
- Hepatic encephalopathy
Affected individuals tend to walk with an unsteady gait. This is because any weight on the affected ankle can cause it to jerk and twist. These jerks cause the person to lose his/her balance, resulting in an abnormal gait. Sometimes these spasms are very painful, and cause severe discomfort.
A simple test can determine the presence of ankle clonus. For this, take the foot in your hand, and bend it backwards gently. This movement is called dorsiflexion. Then, release the foot, and observe the reaction that occurs. If the foot comes back to its normal position, it indicates the absence of the condition. However, if there is presence of any neurological disorder or cerebral palsy, the foot will repeat this motion involuntarily. Bilateral or sustained ankle clonus is diagnosed if there are five or more beats. If one experiences more than five beats, visit a neurologist for expert medical advice.
The treatment involves the use of braces, canes, or other devices that aid walking. If the condition arises due to a spinal injury, surgery will be advised for treating the damaged nerve. Many patients are benefited with the help of physical therapy.
Ankle Clonus in Newborns
Many parents often worry, when they observe this condition in their newborns or infants. However, it has been found to be a normal occurrence in newborns, and infants up to the age of three months. It may not always indicate neurological problems, developmental delays or cerebral palsy. However, if it persists even after three months (some experts say five months) and/or exists with more than 5-8 beats per episode, the infant needs to be examined through MRI testing, and other appropriate tests.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.