What is ankle pain?

Ankle pain refers to any kind of pain or discomfort affecting any part of the ankle. Ankle pain can:

  • Affect one or both ankles.
  • Have a variety of causes.
  • Affect individuals of any age.
  • Prevent a person from walking.

The ankle is a complex part of the body where the tibia and fibula leg bones meet the talus foot bone. (See illustration.) Ligaments hold these bones together and allow movement. The ankle is especially prone to injury because of this complexity.

Who gets ankle pain?

Anyone of any age can experience ankle pain. Ankle pain is often caused by an accidental fall or sports injury. It is more common in athletes and in active men under the age of 24. In women, ankle pain is more prevalent in those over 30.

What causes ankle pain?

Ankle pain is most commonly caused by a sprain. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments connecting the ankle bones. A sprain can occur when the ankle is twisted out of its normal position, usually towards the inside of the leg, causing the ligament to overstretch or tear.

Ankle pain can also be caused by a fracture of one of the bones in the ankle. Because the fibula is quite small compared to the tibia, it is the bone that most commonly breaks. Less common causes of ankle pain include arthritis, gout, and infection.

Achilles tendonitis, or overusing the calf muscles at the back of the leg, can also cause ankle pain. This is more common in runners.

What are the symptoms of ankle pain?

In addition to pain, an injury to the ankle will usually result in swelling, and sometimes bruising, too. Often, an individual will not be able to bear any weight on his or her ankle.

If you cannot put weight on your ankle, can see swelling or redness, or are having moderate to severe ankle pain, you should stay off of your foot and seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

How is ankle pain from an injury diagnosed?

Your doctor will begin by asking about your ankle and the onset of the pain (what you were doing when the pain began). For example, were you walking, playing sports, etc.

The doctor will then look at your ankle and then do a physical examination. The doctor may also order X-rays to see if the cause of the pain is a sprain or fracture. In some cases, fluid from the ankle joint may be taken to check for infection, or other underlying conditions.

How is an ankle injury treated?

Treatment for ankle pain depends on the cause, and whether it is a sprain or fracture.

To treat ankle pain, you are usually required to stay off your foot (with the use of crutches) for a few days or weeks, depending on the extent of the injury. When reclining, you will usually be told to elevate (raise) your foot.

Your doctor may also:

  • Tell you to apply ice to your ankle up to three times a day to reduce swelling.
  • Prescribe a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
  • Advise that you take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen to help with the swelling and pain.

In cases of severe ankle injuries, surgery may be necessary.

How can ankle injuries be prevented?

Warming up before exercising, wearing properly fitted shoes and avoiding high heels can also help prevent ankle injuries.

If you do suffer an ankle injury, resting and following your doctor�s instructions can help you heal as soon as possible.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 5/23/2017…#15295