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THE FACTS ON ANKLE PAIN:

WHAT IS ANKLE PAIN?

Ankle pain is discomfort or pain felt in, on or around any part of the ankle. Ankle pain is often accompanied by stiffness and swelling of the joint. If pain in the ankle is severe enough, it may be difficult to stand or walk.

Ankle pain is very common. Because the ankle consists of a complex structure of bones and soft tissues, it is particularly susceptible to injury and pain. Painful ankles can be especially problematic because the ankles help support body weight and allow for a wide variety of body movements throughout the day.

Ankle pain may come on suddenly, especially following an injury. In other cases, ankle pain may develop gradually and worsen little by little over time.

WHAT CAUSES ANKLE PAIN?

Ankle pain is most often caused by an injury or health condition.

Injuries that are common causes of ankle pain include:

Ankle sprains  An ankle can suffer a sprain when the surrounding ligaments either tear or become overstretched. A sprain may occur if the ankle twists or rolls.

Ankle bone breaks  Pain and swelling can occur if there’s a fracture in any of the bones that form the ankle joint.

Tendinitis If an ankle tendon becomes inflamed or injured, pain may result. Achilles tendinitis is a common cause of ankle pain.

Achilles tendon rupture — When the Achilles tendon ruptures, there’s typically a sharp and instant pain felt in the back of the ankle.

Bursitis — Ankle pain can occur when the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the ankle joint become inflamed.

Health conditions that can cause ankle pain include:

Flat feet  When the feet have little to no arch, the area around the feet, including the ankles, can become sore and painful.

Arthritis — Certain types of arthritis can cause ankle pain, including:

  • Osteoarthritis  The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) causes cartilage to break down. Cartilage is responsible for cushioning the ends of bones. Without adequate cartilage, friction develops and bones can begin to rub together. Osteoarthritis ankle pain is often felt in the area between the ankle and the bone of the shin.
  • Gout This type of arthritis causes uric acid to build up in the blood, creating sharp crystals that can get stuck in a number of areas of the body, including the joints. This can cause significant pain that comes on suddenly. Gout most often affects the big toe but it can cause ankle pain as well.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis  An autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis causes the immune system to attack joints, triggering pain and inflammation. The ankles are often affected.
  • Psoriatic arthritis  While psoriatic arthritis most commonly involves the toes and fingers, the condition can contribute to ankle pain as well.

Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of ankle pain, including:

Age —As people get older, it’s more common to experience ankle pain due to the natural aging process which causes structural changes in the feet and ankles.

Certain sports — Ankle pain and injuries are more common in people who participate in high-impact sports as well as sports that involve twisting and turning.

Obesity — People who are overweight are more likely to develop ankle pain due to the added stress to feet and ankles from carrying extra pounds.

HOW TO RELIEVE ANKLE PAIN?

In many cases, ankle pain improves with basic, self-care measures, including:

RICE  One of the most basic at-home treatments for minor ankle pain is a multi-faceted approach called RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. This combination can help relieve pain and swelling in the ankles.

  • Rest  If your ankle hurts, stop what you’re doing and immediately take weight off the sore ankle. Avoid physical activity that triggers the pain while the ankle has a chance to heal.
  • Ice  You can apply ice to the painful area of the ankle several times a day for up to 20 minutes to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Compression Wrap the ankle with an elastic medical bandage to control swelling.
  • Elevation — Lift the ankle and keep it above heart level. This can be helpful for both pain and inflammation.

OTC pain medications  Over-the-counter pain relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen can help reduce swelling while reducing pain.

Orthotics and Insoles — Consider wearing orthotics or insoles with your shoes. These devices can reduce the effect of shock-causing ground impacts, which can aggravate the ankle joint. Orthotics can also provide extra ankle support while improving stability and alignment of the foot and ankle.

See your doctor if your ankle pain is severe and doesn’t improve using self-care methods at home. Some ankle injuries and conditions require stronger treatments, including prescription medications, injections and surgery.

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Related Symptoms & Conditions

Frequently Asked Questions

What can cause ankle pain without injury?

Aside from injury, common issues that can cause ankle pain include:

Arthritis — Certain types of arthritis, most commonly rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, can cause pain in the joints, including the ankle joint.
Flat feet — A common issue, flat feet occurs when there’s little to no arch in the feet. The condition can cause pain and swelling in the feet as well as the ankles.
Infection — Certain types of infections such as cellulitis and osteomyelitis can lead to pain and swelling in the ankles.
Ankle bursitis — The ankles can become painful due to bursitis, a condition caused by inflammation in the fluid-filled sacs that help cushion the ankle joints. While bursitis can be caused by injury, there are other causes such as arthritis and infection.

Can plantar fasciitis cause ankle pain?

Yes, the pain from plantar fasciitis may also lead to ankle pain due to inflammation in the heel. Although pain from plantar fasciitis is usually felt in the foot, it can travel to the ankle in some cases.

How to massage ankle pain

Talk to your healthcare provider before attempting to massage a painful ankle. With some types of injuries, it’s important to keep the ankle from moving in the beginning and it’s best to avoid applying direct pressure to the ankle.

If your provider gives you the green light and you want to try self-massage, here are some tips:

Using your fingertips on each hand, lightly massage around the ankle using circular movements. It may be helpful to use a massage oil so your fingertips can glide easily without applying too much pressure. You can do this for several minutes at a time. You can also try sliding your fingertips back and forth along both sides of the ankle. Stop immediately if you feel pain or discomfort.

What causes pain in ankle?

Pain in the ankle can be caused by a number of injuries and health conditions.

Common injuries that cause ankle pain include bone fractures, sprains, tendinitis in the ankle and bursitis.

Common health conditions that can lead to ankle pain include various types of arthritis and certain foot conditions such as flat feet.

Does plantar fasciitis cause ankle pain?

Plantar fasciitis doesn’t typically cause ankle pain but it’s possible to experience ankle pain as a result of plantar fasciitis. Pain from plantar fasciitis is most common in the bottom of the heel. However, in some cases, the pain may radiate and spread to the ankles.

How to get rid of ankle pain

There’s no fast, easy way to get rid of ankle pain. However, many people are able to get relief from ankle pain using over-the-counter treatments and home remedies, including rest, cold therapy, compression, elevation and pain relievers.

Wearing insoles with your shoes can also help alleviate ankle pain. Dr. Scholl’s® Stabilizing Support Insoles reduce shock and promote balance while maintaining ankle alignment.

If you have severe ankle pain or if at-home methods don’t provide relief, see your doctor. You may have an injury or condition that requires prescription treatment or surgery.

How to stop ankle pain

Since ankle pain is often caused by injury, one of the best ways to stop ankle pain is by focusing on prevention. Consider these tips when exercising:

  • Take it slow —If you’re beginning a new exercise or sport, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.
  • Mix it up — Consider cross-training to avoid overuse injuries that can lead to ankle pain.
  • Shop for footwear wisely — Choose shoes that are appropriate for your chosen sport or activity.
  • Enhance your shoes — You can increase the performance of good quality shoes with insoles or orthotics.  

How to fix ankle pain

There is no quick fix for ankle pain. If you’re experiencing pain in your ankle, it’s important to stop what you’re doing and immediately take weight off the painful ankle. If a particular sport, exercise or activity triggered the ankle pain, you may need to avoid the activity for a while until your pain resolves.

In some cases, ankle pain may improve with at-home measures. You might try icing the ankle up to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day to reduce pain and swelling. Elevating the ankle by propping it up so that it’s at heart level can also help with swelling, as can wrapping the ankle with an elastic athletic bandage. Over-the-counter pain relievers may be effective for ankle pain. Some pain relievers also address inflammation.

It’s important to see your doctor if your pain is severe. Some ankle injuries require medical treatment such as prescription drugs or surgery. Also see your doctor if your pain doesn’t improve after trying at-home remedies.

How to reduce ankle pain

It’s often possible to reduce ankle pain with a combination of at-home remedies and lifestyle changes. Success depends on a number of factors, including the cause of the pain, mitigating efforts and overall health. The following may be helpful in reducing ankle pain:

Maintain a healthy weight — Carrying extra pounds can put pressure on the ankle joints and increase the risk of pain. If you’re overweight, losing just a few pounds can ease pain and pressure on the ankles.

Manage your workouts — In order to reduce ankle pain from sports and exercise, it’s important to regulate your workout routine. If you’re starting a new activity, take it slow and gradually increase how often and how intense you work out. Alternate low-impact exercises with high-impact activities in order to decrease stress to the ankles.

Equip yourself with proper apparel — Make sure you’re wearing good-quality footwear that’s appropriate for your given activity. This is especially important when engaging in high-impact sports.

Reinforce your shoes — Insoles can help reduce stress on lower body joints, including the ankles, when you wear them in athletic shoes. Dr. Scholl’s® Athletic Series Sport Insoles can help provide much-needed support for a variety of different sports.

If your pain is severe, it’s important to see your doctor for an evaluation. Not all ankle pain improves with at-home remedies and lifestyle changes. Medical treatment may be necessary in some cases.

How to help ankle pain

A number of strategies can help ankle pain. While serious injuries and certain health conditions may require a doctor’s evaluation and medical treatment, many types of ankle pain improve with conservative methods such as rest and ice therapy. Some people also find over-the-counter pain relievers to be helpful, especially NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) which ease swelling in addition to targeting pain.

You may also be able to help ankle pain by maintaining a healthy weight, limiting high-impact sports and wearing high quality shoes with insoles for extra support and stability.