Ankle Pain

Ankle pain is any pain or discomfort in your ankle. It usually gets better with at-home treatments like the RICE method and over-the-counter pain medication. Providers treat more severe pain with braces and splints, injections and surgery.


Your ankle is a complex joint made of three bones and lots of muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Injuries, arthritis and normal wear and tear are the most common causes of ankle pain.

What is ankle pain?

Ankle pain is any pain or discomfort in your ankle joint.

Your ankle is a complex joint made of:

Ankle pain can happen for many reasons. The most common causes include injuries, arthritis and normal wear and tear. Depending on the cause, you may feel pain or stiffness anywhere around your 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 (OTC) pain medications. A healthcare provider will treat injuries and arthritis. Oftentimes, you won’t need surgery to treat these conditions.

Severe ankle injuries — especially broken bones — may require surgery. You might also need surgery if you have severe ankle pain that doesn’t get better after trying other, nonsurgical treatments.

Visit a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing ankle pain that doesn’t go away in a few days, or if the pain is getting worse.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Possible Causes

What are the most common causes of ankle pain?

Anke pain is extremely common and lots of injuries and health conditions can cause it.

Some of the most common injuries that cause ankle pain include:

What causes ankle pain without an injury?

Any health condition that affects your joints can hurt your ankles. Some of the most common include:


Care and Treatment

How do you relieve ankle pain?

Don’t play sports or do any intense physical activity that can put more stress on your ankle until a healthcare provider says it’s safe. Follow the RICE method as soon as you notice pain or other symptoms

  • Rest: Avoid the activity that caused the ankle injury or pain. Don’t overuse your ankle while it heals.
  • Ice: Apply a cold compress or ice packs wrapped in a thin towel to your ankle for 15 minutes at a time, a few times a day.
  • Compression: You can wrap your ankle in an elastic bandage to help reduce swelling. Your provider can show you how to apply a compression bandage safely so it’s not too tight.
  • Elevation: Prop your ankle above the level of your heart as often as you can.

Visit a healthcare provider if the pain lasts more than a few days or doesn’t get better after you try at-home treatments. They’ll diagnose what’s causing it and suggest ways to help you feel better. Other common treatments for ankle pain include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — such as naproxen or ibuprofen — relieve pain and reduce swelling. A healthcare provider might also prescribe corticosteroids (prescription medications that treat inflammation).
  • Orthotics or footwear changes: Orthotics are shoe inserts that support your feet and ankles. They can be custom-made or purchased over the counter. You might need to change the type of shoes you’re wearing for certain activities, too.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can give you exercises to increase your ankle’s strength and flexibility.
  • Immobilization: You might need to wear a splint, brace or cast to hold your ankle in place and take pressure off it while it heals.
  • Joint aspiration: Your provider may insert a needle into your ankle to remove excess fluid that causes swelling.
  • Ankle surgery: You may need surgery to repair tendon or ligament tears, fix fractures or treat severe arthritis. Ankle surgery can usually be done with a minimally invasive ankle arthroscopy. You might also need an ankle fusion.

How can I prevent ankle pain?

You might not always be able to prevent ankle pain, especially if it’s caused by an injury you can’t plan for. You may not be able to prevent arthritis and other health conditions, either.

The best way to prevent pain is to stay safe when you’re physically active. During sports or other physical activities:

  • Wear the right protective equipment.
  • Don’t “play through the pain” if your ankle hurts during or after physical activity.
  • Give your body time to rest and recover after intense activity.
  • Stretch and warm up before playing sports or working out.
  • Cool down and stretch after physical activity.

Follow these general safety tips to reduce your risk of an injury:

  • Make sure your home and workspace are free of clutter that could trip you or others.
  • Always use the proper tools or equipment at home to reach things. Never stand on chairs, tables or countertops.
  • Use a cane or walker if you have difficulty walking or have an increased risk of falls.


When To Call the Doctor

How do I know if my ankle pain is serious?

Most cases of ankle pain are minor or temporary. Severe ankle pain needs diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare provider right away.

Visit a healthcare provider if you have ankle pain all the time, or if the pain is intense enough that you change your daily routine or avoid some of your usual activities.

Go to the emergency room or call 911 (or your local emergency services number) if you’ve experienced trauma like a car accident or severe fall. Go to the ER if you can’t move your ankle or leg, or if you think you have a broken bone.

Additional Common Questions

Why do I have pain in the side of my ankle?

Different injuries or health conditions can cause pain in different locations in or around your ankles. Peroneal tendinitis is inflammation in the tendons that run along your outer ankle bone and the side of your foot. It can cause ankle pain on the outside of your ankle.

Posterior tibial tendinitis is inflammation in one of the tendons that runs along the inside of your ankle and foot. It can cause pain on the inside of your ankle or foot.

Any other injury or condition that causes general ankle pain can also make the sides of your ankles hurt. Visit a healthcare provider no matter where you’re feeling ankle pain if the RICE method or taking NSAIDs at home doesn’t relieve the pain after a few days.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Everyone’s had a sore ankle at some point. But there’s a difference between feeling sore for a day or two and feeling like your ankles are constantly aching. Visit a healthcare provider if ankle pain is an everyday constant for you, or if you know you experienced an ankle injury.

Trust your instincts and listen to your body. People sometimes assume that ankle pain is just a part of getting older or an unavoidable side effect of their jobs or hobbies. You might feel pain every once in a while, but don’t ignore it if it’s been more than a few days in a row since you’ve been pain-free.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/25/2024.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Appointments 216.444.2606