Ankle pain is a common foot complaint. Generally there are two types: Acute ankle pain and Chronic ankle pain:
1. Acute ankle pain results from trauma or injury. The most common ankle injury is a sprained ankle. Ankle sprains often occur during sports, running or athletics. The ankle twists which causes damage to the ligaments and tissue surrounding the ankle joint. Although very painful, ankle sprains will usually heal within a matter of weeks by simply resting the foot.
2. Chronic ankle pain is a long-term foot complaint. Pain is experienced either on the inside of the ankle (medial ankle pain) or on the outside (lateral ankle pain). Medial ankle pain is caused by stress on the tendons and nerves around the ankle region. Pain occurs on weight bearing and worsens with activity such as walking, running and sports.
Ankle pain is often due to an ankle sprain.
- An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments, which connect bones to one another.
- In most cases, the ankle is twisted inward, causing small tears in the ligaments. The tearing leads to swelling and bruising, making it difficult to bear weight on the joint.
In addition to ankle sprains, ankle pain can be caused by:
- Damage or swelling of tendons (which join muscles to bone) or cartilage (which cushions joints)
- Infection in the ankle joint
- Osteoarthritis, gout,rheumatoid arthritis, Reiter syndrome, and other types of arthritis
Problems in areas near the ankle that can cause you to feel pain in the ankle include:
- Blockage of blood vessels in the leg
- Heel pain or injuries
- Nerve injuries (such as tarsal tunnel syndrome or sciatica)
Treatment depends entirely on the cause of the problem. Therefore, it’s important that you understand the cause of your symptoms before beginning treatment. If you are unsure of your diagnosis, or the severity of your condition, you should seek advice from a professional physical therapist before beginning any treatment plan. Physical therapy is an important aspect of treatment of almost all orthopaedic conditions.
Physical therapists at ABC Physical Therapy use different modalities to increase strength, regain mobility, and help return patients to their pre-injury level of activity.
ABC Physical Therapy suggests some common treatments for ankle pain are listed here. Not all of these treatments are appropriate for every condition, but they may be helpful in your situation.
Rest the ankle: Avoid putting weight on your ankle as best you can. If the pain is severe, you may need crutches until it goes away.
Footwear Modifications, Orthotics, and Braces: Depending on the type of injury, footwear modifications, braces, or orthotics may all be potentially helpful. The specific injury, and the problem needing to be addressed, will determine which of these may be helpful.
Ice your ankle: Ice your ankle to reduce pain and swelling. Do it for 20 to 30 minutes every three to four hours for two to three days, or until the pain is gone. After that, ice it once a day until you have no other symptoms.
Stretching: Stretching the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that surround the joint can help with some causes of ankle pain. A good routine should be established, and following some specific suggestions will help you on your way.
Compress and Elevate your ankle: Use an elastic bandage to keep down swelling. Start wrapping at your toes and work back towards your leg. Elevate your ankle on a pillow when you’re sitting or lying down.
Use braces or ankle stirrups to give your ankle support.
- Lose weight if you are overweight. Extra pounds put strain on your ankles.
- Warm up before exercising. Stretch the muscles and tendons that support the ankle.
- Avoid sports and activities for which you are not properly conditioned.
- Make sure that shoes fit you properly. Avoid high-heeled shoes.
- If you are prone to ankle pain or twisting your ankle during certain activities, use ankle support braces. These include air casts, ACE bandages, or lace-up ankle supports.
- Work on your balance and do agility exercises.