The ankle joint is where the bone of the leg and the foot meet. It is responsible for the upward and downward motion of the foot. The ankle starts from the ankle joint to the lower end of the leg, and the beginning of the flat part of the foot.
Ankle pain can simply be defined as any type of injury or disorder in the ankle. It is mostly caused by common wounds such as a sprain, or medical disorders such as arthritis, gout, or nerve injury. The injury is often seen as swelling or bruising and can often stay as long as 1 or 2 weeks, but it can take some months before a chronic ankle injury fully heals.
According to a report, an ankle sprain is one of the usual causes of ankle injuries – taking up a huge number (about 85%) of all ankle pains. A sprain happens when your ligaments (ligaments are the tissues that serve as a connection between bones) get torn or overstretched.
The most common type of sprains is lateral sprains, which happens when your foot rolls, and as a result making your outside ankle twist facing the ground. This injury often stretches or rips the ligaments.
Causes of Ankle Pain
Common causes of ankle pain include:
This is a frequent cause of ankle pain. It is often caused by the rolling or twisting of the ankle, which results in the outside ankle moving towards the ground, thereby rupturing the ligaments of the ankle which connect the bones. Rolling the ankle can also harm the cartilage and tendons of your ankles.
Gout happens when there is a build-up of uric acid in the body. This high concentration of uric acid (which is a by-product that remains when the body breaks down its old cells) can put crystals in the joint, resulting in sharp pain.
This is an identical condition ailment where there is a build-up of calcium deposits in the joints. Symptoms of gout and pseudogout are similar and they include discomfort, inflammation, and redness.
Although the immune system does its best to protect the body against germs, there are instances when the joints can be affected by accident. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a condition that affects the same joint on both sides of the body. Symptoms include; discomfort, paralysis, inflammation that affects both sides of the ankle.
Ankle Pain without Injuries
Oftentimes, you can have ankle pain without being injured. The usual causes of this situation include:
This is an autoimmune ailment in which the body impacts the healthy tissues, which could affect the ankles or even result in a build-up of fluid in the joints while showing faint signs of kidney issues. Although there is no cure for Lupus, you can consult your podiatrist to help you arrange your diet, medications, and exercises that can aid recovery.
There is cartilage that surrounds the bones in the position where they meet to act as a cushion in that region. As time goes on, wear and tear are inevitable, and this makes the cartilage break down and without the cushioning effect of the cartilage, the bones rub against each other. This often results in pain, paralysis, and immobility. In severe cases, surgery might be recommended.
- Flat Feet
Some people have an arch found between the ball of the foot and the heel. Some people have flat feet with no presence of the arch. Oftentimes, while this could be painless, the ankles could suffer inflammation if they don’t align with the knees.
Ankle pains without any underlying injury or diseases can also be caused by; wearing footwear that does not fit such as ski boots and high heels. It can also be caused by sprains, strains, overexertion, disuse, or trauma.
An ankle sprain is an injury that is sustained when the ankle rolls, twists, or turns in an odd way. This often tears, rips, or stretches the tough ligaments that hold the bones of the ankle together. Symptoms of a sprained ankle include:
- Swelling and inflammation
- Ankle instability
- Tenderness around ankle areas
The recovery time for sprained ankles depends on the level of injury. Mild, low-grade ankle sprains should heal within one to three weeks. Moderate ankle sprains usually take a duration of three to four weeks while severe sprains can take up to three to six months to heal.
An ankle is said to be broken when there are one or multiple fractures of one or more of the three bones which make up the ankle joint; the tibia (shinbone), the fibula (outer bone of the lower leg), and the talus. Symptoms include:
- Tenderness around the affected ankle
- Inability or difficulty while walking
- Pain or discomfort in the bone.
- Ankle bleeding
A torn ligament is the tearing, ripping, or stretching of ligaments which is the fibrous tissue that has a connection between bones and joints. Symptoms include:
- Discomfort and pain
- Ankle instability which makes walking difficult.
- Weakness in the areas surrounding the joint.
- Inability of the ankle to carry the weight of the body.
Symptoms of Ankle pain
Symptoms of ankle pain include:
- Swelling or inflammation around the ankles.
- Redness in the affected spot
- Feelings of numbness and tingling
- Sharp, burning pain in the ankle
- The affected ankle becomes unable to carry weight
- Stiffness and paralysis
- General body weakness.
- Discomfort and pain around the affected foot.
- Swelling and inflammation of the affected foot.
- Inability to flex the joint.
- Difficulty in walking.
Ankle Pain Relief
Below are some ways to alleviate ankle pain and injuries:
Refrain from putting much weight on the affected ankle. Minimize your movement throughout the first few days of injury. If possible, make use of crutches or a cane if you have to make any movements.
You can start by placing an ice pack on the affected ankle for at least 20 minutes at a time. Ensure to keep a rest period of 90 minutes between every icing bout. Repeat three to five times a day for a total of 3 days after the injury. This aids in reducing the swelling and alleviating the pain.
Wrap the affected ankle with an elastic bandage (ACE bandage for example). Make sure it is firm but not too tight, to avoid making your ankles numb or making your toes blue.
At every opportunity, you get, raise your ankle above your heart level on a heap of pillows or any other type of support structure.
Ankle Pain Stretches
While taking pain relievers might be good, sometimes, a good stretching exercise can come in handy in lessening ankle pain. There are numerous stretching exercises that can help with ankle pain and injuries. They can also help to lessen the ache and make your mobility better, increasing your range of movement.
Before commencing, perform a warm-up exercise. 5-10 minutes of low-impact exercise would be perfect. Below is the list of stretching exercises you can perform:
Ankle circles help increase your range of movement. This exercise can be done either in a sitting or lying position.
How to perform
- Begin by turning your ankles around in circles, first moving to the left, then to the right.
- Try drawing letters of the alphabet in the air with your foot. To do this, start with your big toe.
- Keep your range of movement small and focus on using only your foot and ankle, not the entire leg.
If you are performing circles, move your ankles in 10 different directions with each foot. If you are drawing the alphabet, perform 2 sets of this exercise with each foot.
This exercise is a lot similar to the calf stretch which many people already know how to do.
How to perform
- Begin by standing near a wall or any other means of support, while keeping your hands on the wall and at eye level.
- Position your left leg just behind your right leg.
- Maintain your left heel on the floor and slowly bend your right knee until you can feel a stretch in your left leg.
- Take note: Keep your back knee slightly bent to stretch your Achilles tendon.
Maintain this stretch for about 15-30 seconds, repeating 2-4 times on each leg.
This exercise helps you relieve the pain in the affected ankle.
How to prepare
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
- Wrap a towel around your toes on both feet.
- Gradually pull back the towel until you can feel a stretch at the base of your feet and the back of your lower legs.
Maintain this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat it 3 times every day.
You might employ the use of a band or strap to aid you in stretches. Similar to the towel stretch, using a band can help increase the intensity of the stretch.
How to perform (Inward Towel stretch)
- Sit with a towel or a band around your left foot.
- Firmly hold both ends of the towel with your hands.
- Gradually turn your ankle inward, as if you are trying to face the sole of your face to the right.
- Then pull up the right-hand side of the towel to deepen the stretch.
- Repeat the process on the other side.
Outward Towel stretch
- Sit with the towel or band around your left foot.
- With a firm grip, hold both ends of the towel with your hands.
- This time around, turn your ankle outward as if you are facing the sole of your foot to the left.
- Pull up the left-hand side of the towel to deepen the stretch.
- Repeat on the other side.
Perform each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Standing calf stretch
To increase the intensity of your stretch, you can move to a standing position.
How to perform
- To begin, stand facing the wall or any other source of support, either a chair or a table. Then place a foot in front of you giving around 12 inches of space.
- Point your toes upward.
- Gradually lean forward until you can feel the stretch in the back of your lower leg.
Maintain this stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side. Repeat it 3 times.
Ankle Pain Treatment
If you have a severe injury in your ankle, you can consider a physical therapy program. Physical therapy would help you boost strength, flexibility, and range of movement, while also focusing on certain muscles. Apart from healing injuries gotten from sporting activities and overexertion, physical therapy can also treat issues that are concerning recovery from a foot or ankle surgery. The physical therapy session that will be recommended would depend on the degree of your injuries and your doctor’s advice.
Acupuncture treats ankle pain by allowing energy to flow perfectly all through the body. It improves circulation to relieve inflammation and facilitates the flow of endorphins to relieve pain while blocking the nervous system that is in charge of feeling pain.
Chiropractic treatment is a pseudoscientific alternate way treatment used to correct mechanical illnesses of the musculoskeletal system, particularly in the areas of the spine. The main aim of chiropractors is to ease pain and enhance bodily functions, it doesn’t advocate the use of drugs or surgery. Instead, they modify the spine or other parts of the body to set them in the right position. Through this system, the pain in the ankle is eased.
A personal trainer can help by recommending exercises that would help improve flexibility, mobility, and range of motion before recommending strengthening exercises to make the ankle stronger and protect against future injuries.
Ankle braces help to correct ankle injuries. Putting on an ankle brace four weeks after the initial injury will reduce ankle sprains and swelling. It would reduce the risk of future injuries.
Exercises for Ankle Pain
- Sit on a chair while placing your foot flat on the floor. While keeping your foot on the floor, gradually move your knee from left to right for about 2 to 3 minutes. This exercise stretches and soothes the ligaments around your ankle.
Towel and tissue scrunches
- Put a small towel or tissue on the floor in front of you while sitting on a hard chair. Take off your socks and shoes, slowly grab the towel with your toes, scrunch it up and count to 5. Release the towel and repeat. Do this 8-10 times every day.
Standing calf stretch
- Stand while facing the wall or in front of a countertop and place your hand on it as support. Place the injured ankle one step back and the good foot forward. Keeping your back heel grounded, gradually bend your knee of the good leg until you feel a mild stretch in the calf of your injured leg. Repeat for 3 times, maintaining the position for 30 seconds.
Natural Remedies for Ankle Pain
Below are some remedies that can be used to treat ankle pain:
- Use topical pain relievers to ease the pain.
- Stay physically hydrated and fit and set a fitness session putting your attention on mild exercises.
- Add healthy foods to your diet.
- Occasionally perform stretching exercises to improve the range of motion of your joints.
- Try natural joint supplements.
- Watch your body weight and keep it within a healthy range, which will reduce the stress on the joints.
Ankle pain can be a real issue as it limits the range of movement and reduces your mobility. While most ankle injuries can be treated at home with the steps listed above, it is imperative to know when to seek a doctor’s appointment.
If you have a case of severe swelling or bruising, or you are unable to exert weight or pressure on your ankle without feeling pain, you should consider seeing a doctor.
While home treatments could also be a solution for ankle pain, consult your doctor if there is no visible improvement in the following days.