ankle pain

Ankle Pain – causes, symptoms & exercises

“One can endure fractures easily, but when it comes to ankle twists, it does become a long-time memory.” It is not just a typical saying but indeed a reality. So have you ever been through such pain in your ankle? If yes, here’s all you need to know.

Ankle pain is defined as any sort of discomfort or pain affecting any portion of the ankle. It is one of the top musculoskeletal discomforts and is especially common among physically active people. Ankle pains and ankle sprains also have a significant recurrence rate linked to chronic ankle instability development. 

This can arise due to a variety of reasons. Injuries, osteoarthritis, and regular wear and tear are typical reasons. You may have pain or tightness anywhere around your ankle, depending on the cause. Your ankle may also swell, and you might be unable to put any weight on it.

ankle pain

Typically, an Ankle ache improves with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers. Healthcare providers can treat injuries and arthritis. Problems may frequently be addressed without surgery. However, surgery is required if the damage is severe, such as a broken ankle bone, or nonsurgical therapy fails to relieve your ankle discomfort. A physical therapy (PT) regimen can help you recover if you’ve had an ankle injury or surgery. Subsequently, understanding the anatomy of our ankle and joint becomes crucial.

So your ankle joint is a synovial hinge joint that mainly provides only two significant movements, dorsiflexion and plantar flexion, or we can say it can only move back and forth. It is similar to the movement of a door. The hinge joint forms when the fibula and tibia, the ends of the shin bones, form a socket for the talus or the foot bone slots into. And this joint is then secured by several ligaments and muscles.

That was enough for the technical aspects of the ankle; let’s look at its possible causes, signs, and symptoms and some remedies to treat it at home.

What causes Pain in your Ankle?

A million people seek medical assistance for ankle injuries and pain each year. Any ailment can be cured or prevented only when you know its root cause. So, listed below are the most prevalent reasons for ankle pain.

1. Sprained ankle 

The common point where we all meet is the sudden ankle roll while we walk, run or jog. Sprained ankles result from awkwardly twisting, rolling, or spinning your ankle. This might cause stretching or tearing of the muscular tissue like ligaments that hold your ankle bones together. Forty percent of ankle sprains can lead to long-time complications.

There are two kinds of ankle sprain, one high ankle sprain, and the other low ankle sprain. A high ankle sprain occurs due to external rotation and affects the joint’s upper region or the fibula and tibia region. Whereas the low ankle sprain happens due to inversion or rolling of the foot, this majorly damages the ligaments.

2. Tendonitis 

It is a painful condition that happens due to overuse of the tendons.

Tendons are tissue bands that join the bones to the foot and ankle muscles. Tendonitis is swelling that occurs around a tendon. It causes distress during activity that generally subsides with rest, only reappearing when you move it. Tendonitis is one of the top reasons for ankle pain. There are different types of tendonitis, dorsal tendonitis (top), posterior tendonitis (back), Medial tendonitis(along the pinky), and lateral tendonitis (along the big toe).

3. Arthritis in ankle 

Ankle osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in the ankle degenerates and causes joint injury. Cartilage is a   spongy and smooth tissue covering the bones’ ends to form joints. It acts as a shock absorber and  cushioning for the bones. When the cartilage wears away, the bones of the joint scrape against one other, becoming rough and worn.

4. Fracture

A broken leg or a fracture in the ankle is a bone injury. A car accident or a fall can cause a broken leg. Foot fractures vary in severity. Fractures range from a small crack in the bone to a fracture that breaks through the skin. Treatment is initiated depending on the seriousness of the fracture.

ankle pain

 5. Flatfeet 

Flatfoot or flatfeet is a common condition in which the arch on the inside of the foot flattens when pressure is applied to the foot. When a person with flat feet stands up, the feet turn outward, and the entire sole touches the floor. Most people do not have symptoms associated with flat feet. However, some people with flat feet experience foot pain, especially in the heel and arch area. Activity can make the pain worse. The swelling may occur on the inside of the ankle.

These causes may intensify if the patient is aged, overweight, or has a complex medical history of prior injuries and other lifestyle diseases.

Signs and symptoms of ankle pain.

The anatomic structure of our ankle and its unstable nature makes it vulnerable to various injuries. The symptoms for each could be very different depending on its cause. One of the dominant symptoms of the condition is persistent discomfort, which may be accompanied by the following.

  • excruciating pain

  • inability to take weight on the ankle

  • Click sound on movement.

  • bruises  

  • redness

  • swollen ankles

  •  numbness and soreness

  •  Unstable ankle

  • burning pain

  • stiffness in ankle

  • Weakness in ankle

When to consult a doctor?

Usually, when one suffers from ankle pain, it is considered safe to use home cures for a time. But certain sprains require medical intervention, including physical therapy. Patients with ankle sprains often do not seek treatment, which can be dangerous. Surgery might be needed in the most severe cases of persistent symptoms. Ignoring the problem or fighting through the pain in these circumstances might worsen the damage and lengthen the recovery process.

People with a more acute ankle sprain should seek medical assistance if they have excessive bruising or swelling around the ankle and it becomes hard to carry weight on foot or if there is no recovery after several days.

In addition, if you have symptoms of infection, such as redness, warmth, discomfort in the afflicted region, or a temperature of more than 100 F (37.8 C), you should see a doctor. Or if the swelling does not go away after two to five days of home therapy.

Managing ankle pain at home

If you feel your injury is grave and the pain becomes unbearable, it is time to see a doctor. A severe sprain or bone breakage necessitates medical attention. It might be hard to distinguish between different types of injuries. And if you are uncertain whether your ankle is sprained or fractured, get medical assistance immediately. In some situations, an ankle sprain may not necessitate medical attention. So Consider the following sprained ankle treatments if you have a mild or severe injury:


This age-old cure for mild strains and sprains is well-known among athletes. Physicians suggest this remedy since it helps. This treatment consists of the following steps:

Rest: Avoid the damage for a few days and get plenty of rest.

Ice: Applying ice to the ankle might help minimize stiffness and swelling.

Compression: Apply a static or elastic compression bandage to reduce swelling.

Elevation: Elevating the ankle above the heart reduces blood flow to the injured site.

RICE treatment may look easy, but it is beneficial throughout your healing. To help manage the body’s natural inflammatory reaction, begin it as soon as feasible after the ankle sprain develops.

ankle pain

Poultices available at home 

Your kitchen has a range of natural anti-inflammatory medicines. Consider turmeric, garlic, onion, castor oil, or olive oil for a classic poultice to help decrease swelling. Warm any of these ingredients gently and apply to a sprained ankle, then cover it in a bandage for several hours. Anti-inflammatory foods have mixed results in studies, but they are unlikely to damage you and may assist recovery.

Cold Compression Therapy

Cold therapy is also known as cryotherapy. It helps to reduce inflammation and swelling. This in turn reduces pain. It also calms down fatigue. It is very useful in sudden pain and swelling. Cold therapy also helps to numb sore tissues. It therefore acts as a local anesthetic and slows down pain messages being transcribed to the brain. Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) is a gold standard treatment protocol for treating sports injuries.

Epsom salt

After a few days, bathe your ankle in a warm Epsom salt bath. Epsom salt may help relieve joint stiffness and soothe tight muscles and connective tissues. 1-2 times a day, add Epsom salts to a warm or slightly hot bath.

OTC Pain Reliever

A sprained ankle is not usually a severe injury, although it can be bothersome. If the discomfort becomes unbearable, try using an over-the-counter pain reliever to minimize the pain and swelling. If you are taking any other medication, ask your doctor, and always follow the dose directions to ensure optimal usage.

Exercises for Ankle Pain

Many people endure foot or ankle problems at some time in their lives. The best method to avoid injury is to have strong, flexible muscles and joints that can withstand tension and damage. Keeping your feet firm can help relieve pain and enhance your overall health and flexibility. Several exercises might help reduce many pain episodes in cases of ankle pain. 

ankle pain

Frequent ankle and foot exercises will ensure that the muscles provide optimal strength. Most of these are simple to execute and do not require any expensive equipment. As part of a regular workout program, people can do them at home or in the gym. These exercises may also improve foot range of motion, allowing a person to stay active for as long as possible. The following are some exercises you may do to relieve pain:

  • Ankle stretch

Put one end of a Sportcord around the instep of your right foot. Pull up the Sportcord with your right leg until you get the required resistance and difficulty. Extend your right toe in a downward position as if you were driving and pressing the gas pedal. Wait for five seconds before repeating twenty times. Repeat with the left foot after switching legs.

  • Rotation of the ankles

Elevate your foot approximately 20 inches above the ground. Then, with your toes pointed upward, spin your foot to the left and back to the right. Wait in the position for 10 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat the same step 20 times with each leg.

  • Achilles stretch

While facing a wall, lift your arms so that your palms are flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping the knee straight. Then, lower the other leg’s knee while keeping both heels flat on the ground. Push the hips forward until the Achilles tendon and calf muscles feel stretched. 

Before swapping sides, hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on each side three times.

  • Heel elevation

Place yourself near a wall or a chair on which you can balance. Raise your left foot backward till your lower leg forms a 90-degree angle. Keep the stretch for 5 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat with each leg ten times.

  • Flexion of the ankles

While seated on the chair, outstretch the left leg. Hold for 20 seconds with the top of the toe bent backward. Relax and repeat ten times more.

Note: Do not perform the above exercises when in active pain and stop immediately as if it hurts while you perform any exercise.

Ankle pain can be frustrating as it takes away your basic mobility but one can get through it by taking the right measures and precaution at the right time.

Written By

Kanak Tiwari

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