Chances are, you’ve experienced ankle pain – 25,000 people in the US alone sprain their ankle every day.
But how do you know what’s causing it and what steps you should take? In some cases, rest and sleep will be enough to heal your ankle. In others, you’ll require immediate medical attention.
Below we explain 7 common causes of ankle pain and what you can do to relieve the symptoms.
If your ankle feels tender but you can still walk on it, it’s likely a sprain. Sprains are one of the most common ankle injuries and the most frequent injury sustained in sports.
Sprained ankles are a tear in the ligaments of your foot that hold your ankle bones together. They often happen if your foot rolls sideways or moves in a direction that it’s not supposed to. Your ankle will swell and may bruise, and you may not be able to put weight on it without pain.
Pain management and treatment of a sprained ankle call for the RICE method:
- Ice for 20 minutes cycles, followed by breaks
- Compress your foot with a bandage
- Elevate your ankle by lifting it above your heart (such as placing it on top of a few pillows when you’re lying down)
Light sprains will heal a few days after taking it easy. A worse sprain may need a walking boot or a few sessions of physical therapy to heal.
2. Ankle Fracture
If putting weight on your ankle is out of the question, you may have an ankle fracture. Accidents or injuries can cause bones to break (fracture). Fractures can happen in any bones within your ankle joint and be mild to severe.
Like a sprain, you’ll feel swelling and pain. However, your pain will be more acute when you try to put weight on your ankle. It’s unlikely that you’ll be unable to walk. If you’re experiencing severe ankle pain, you may even see exposed bone.
Like you would with a sprained ankle, rest your foot, keep it iced, compress it with a bandage, and elevate it until you see your doctor.
Your doctor will then decide the best course of action. In best-case scenarios, you’ll have a cast or splint to keep the bones in place while they heal naturally. In more serious cases, you could need surgery.
3. Ankle Arthritis
Three bones form our ankle joint, and each bone has cartilage, which helps cushion the space between the bones. Over time, the cartilage becomes thin and will cause pain when the bones rub together.
If you experience this, you have ankle osteoarthritis. You may also have rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease. If both ankles are in pain, it’s worth consulting with your doctor to rule out rheumatoid arthritis.
Ankle pain caused by arthritis can be treated in several ways. Exercise and physical therapy may help with movement. Your doctor may also prescribe shoe inserts or drugs to help with the pain.
4. Achilles Tendinitis
Tendons are fibrous tissues that connect your muscles to your bones. You have a large tendon in your ankle called your Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscle to your heal.
A heavy or sudden strain could cause your Achilles tendon to tear, which will make the back of your ankle tender and warm. It will likely swell and feel painful.
Achilles tendinitis will be the most noticeable after exercise or in the morning.
Healing inflamed tendons requires rest. Anti-inflammatory drugs can help with the pain, but you won’t truly feel better until you give your ankle a chance to heal. Serious tears in your Achilles tendon could require surgery.
5. Flat Feet
Your foot has a space between the heel and the ball of the foot known as the arch. It creates a space when you stand in the shape of a small arch, which will give your foot support.
If you stand and yours stays flat (or you have a very low arch), you may experience swelling and pain in your ankles. While it’s usually painless, misalignment between your ankles and knees as a result of flat feet will cause discomfort.
The fix for flat feet is simple. Arch supports and wearing supportive shoes will reduce the pain and keep your feet in proper alignment.
Though not as common, an infection could be the cause of your ankle pain. Several types of infection, including cellulitis and osteomyelitis, could cause swelling in your ankle joint, which would lead to pain.
Your joint will likely be red and warm in addition to being swollen. You may even see or feel a fluid buildup in your ankle, which is caused by bacteria.
You’ll likely know that you have an infection because your ankle pain will be accompanied by other symptoms including a fever, irritability, and fatigue.
You’ll need to go to a doctor, where they’ll drain the fluid from your ankle and test it for a cause. They’ll also prescribe you an anti-biotic and run other tests to determine what you’re infected with.
Frequent ankle pain or fluid buildup without cause could be a sign of an underlying autoimmune disease. If you also experience other symptoms like frequent rashes, fatigue, and unexplained fever, you may have lupus.
Lupus will cause ankle pain directly by attacking the healthy tissue and causing swelling. It could also cause kidney problems that lead to fluid buildup in your ankles.
Your doctor can help you manage your lupus with the right medications and diet. Although there is no cure, certain lifestyle choices will help reduce symptoms.
Managing the Causes of Ankle Pain
Foot injuries can be extremely frustrating, but understanding the causes of ankle pain will help you treat your symptoms and receive the proper care for the fastest healing possible.
Rejuvenate Your Health offers regenerative medicine designed to heal your body from injuries that are persistent or unresponsive to previous treatment.
Feel like yourself again by getting in touch with one of our specialists and learning about which treatments will benefit you.