Ankle pain refers to any kind of pain or discomfort affecting any part of the ankle. Ankle pain usually gets better with at-home treatments such as rest, ice and over-the-counter pain medication. A physical therapy program can help you strengthen muscles and prevent another injury. Providers treat more severe pain with braces and splits, injections and surgery.
Ankle pain refers to any kind of pain or discomfort affecting any part of the ankle. Ankle pain can happen for many reasons. The most common causes include injury, arthritis and normal wear and tear. Depending on the cause, you may feel pain or stiffness anywhere around the ankle. Your ankle may also swell, and you may not be able to put any weight on it.
Usually, ankle pain gets better with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain medications. Healthcare providers can treat injuries and arthritis. Often times, conditions can be treated without surgery. However if the injury is severe, such as a broken ankle bone, or when your ankle pain fails to improve with nonsurgical treatment, surgery is needed. If you’ve had an ankle injury or surgery, a physical therapy (PT) plan can also help you heal. PT strengthens the muscles that support your feet and ankles. The therapy can relieve pain and prevent future injuries.
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Your ankles are part of the musculoskeletal system. They support your body’s weight and help you stand, balance and move. The flexible ankle joint allows you to point, flex, rotate and move your foot from side to side.
The lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) come together to meet the foot bone (talus) to form the ankle. Ligaments hold these bones together. A complex structure of tendons, muscles and other soft tissues allows the foot and ankle to move. The ankle is especially prone to injury because of this complexity.
Ankle pain and ankle injuries are very common. You’re more likely to have ankle pain if you:
Pain in the ankle can result from several injuries and conditions. Some of the most common injuries that cause ankle pain include:
Many diseases, disorders and conditions can also lead to ankle pain. These include:
Your provider will examine your ankle and foot. Providers check for swelling, pain and bruising. Testing depends on the location of the pain and whether you’ve recently had an injury. Your provider may order an imaging test such as an X-ray, CT or MRI scan. These tests create images of bones and soft tissues so your provider can check for damage.
If your provider thinks you have an infection, you may need a biopsy. Your provider removes a sample of tissue and sends it to a lab to check for bacteria.
Most ankle pain gets better with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain medication. Follow your provider’s instructions for at-home treatments for ankle pain. Your provider may recommend the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation). If pain is severe or your ankle still hurts after a few days of at-home care, see your provider.
The most common home treatments for ankle pain are:
Most ankle injuries heal with at-home treatments. More severe injuries may require surgery. Treatment depends on what’s causing ankle pain. Common treatments for ankle pain include:
You may not always be able to prevent ankle pain. But you can keep your bones, ligaments and tendons strong by maintaining good health. To prevent ankle pain caused by injuries, you should:
Call your healthcare provider if:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Ankle pain is a symptom of many injuries and conditions. Swelling, stiffness and pain can make walking difficult or impossible. Most ankle injuries get better with treatments you can do at home, such as elevating your foot and getting plenty of rest. Ankle pain doesn’t usually require surgery. If the pain is severe, you have a lot of swelling or the pain doesn’t go away after a few days, see your provider. Several noninvasive treatments can help you get back on your feet.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/26/2020.
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