Chronic ankle pain: Causes and treatments

When you take your first steps in the morning and feel a twinge in your ankle, you already feel like you’re going to have a bad day. While temporary ankle pain is frustrating enough, it’s even worse when it continues for weeks, or even months, at a time.

Chronic ankle pain can interfere with your quality of life because it makes it difficult to comfortably complete your daily tasks, like going up the stairs in your house to taking your dog out for a walk. When you feel like your ankle pain seems to be lingering, it’s important to be proactive about treatment. But the first step is figuring out the reason behind your pain.

Read on to learn about the basics of chronic ankle pain, the possible causes and the treatment options that can help alleviate it. 

The basics of chronic ankle pain

You’ve probably felt ankle pain every now and then, but not all ankle pain is deemed as chronic. A health care provider will likely determine that you have chronic ankle pain if it has lasted for at least three months.

Chronic ankle pain is mostly associated with chronic ankle instability, which means that it has a hard time holding up the weight of your body during movement. This often leads to it rolling outward on the lateral side of your ankle. Research shows that up to 79% of study participants with chronic ankle instability also experience ankle pain.

Along with ankle instability, chronic pain can also come with other symptoms, including:

  • Reduced mobility and range of motion.
  • Stiffness.
  • Tenderness.

Potential causes of chronic ankle pain

Even though temporary ankle pain can come from everyday activities, like standing too long at work or wearing uncomfortable shoes, chronic ankle pain is a bit more than that. If you’re experiencing ankle pain for months, it will usually stem from an injury or medical condition.

Here are a few possible reasons for chronic ankle pain:

  • Sprain — One of the most common reasons for ankle pain is a sprained ligament. It occurs after you fall or land awkwardly after a jump, causing the ligaments to become overstretched. It can cause pain as well as swelling and reduced mobility. Chronic ankle instability is often the result of a sprain that hasn’t properly healed.
  • Fracture — A fractured ankle refers to a broken bone. Your ankle can sustain an acute or stress fracture. An acute fracture occurs suddenly due to an injury or accident. A stress fracture refers to small cracks in the bone that develop over time due to repetitive movements and excessive stress.
  • Arthritis — The ankle is a common location for arthritis, which involves joint inflammation. Arthritis in the ankle is usually osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage between bones to break down and rub against each other. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the lining of the ankle joints.
  • Tendinitis — Overusing the tendons in your ankle from repetitive movements can cause them to become inflamed, resulting in ankle pain as well as swelling and stiffness. One of the most common types of ankle tendinitis is peroneal tendinitis, which refers to inflammation of the peroneal tendons along the outside of your ankle and foot.

Treatment options for chronic ankle pain

Chronic ankle pain can interfere with your quality of life, but you don’t have to just grin and bear it. There are many treatment options to help alleviate your ankle pain and work toward restoring your mobility. Some self-care treatments can be done at home, while others may require the assistance or insight of a health care provider.

Here are ankle pain treatment options that you can test out:

  • Medication — For temporary pain relief, ask your provider about taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Over-the-counter options include ibuprofen or naproxen. Not only do NSAIDs help alleviate your pain, but they can also reduce any swelling.
  • Brace — One of the most important parts of helping your ankle heal from an injury, such as a sprain or a fracture, is to prevent it from too much movement and reduce the risk of furthering the damage. An ankle brace helps to support your ankle as it heals by limiting its motion while also providing compression and pain relief.
  • Physical therapy — An effective treatment option for ankle pain is physical therapy. A physical therapist can use their hands during manual therapy techniques, such as soft tissue manipulation and joint mobilization, to help alleviate the tension and increase mobility. They can also walk you through exercises that will strengthen the ankle muscles to provide support and reduce the risk of future injury or re-injury.

How Lattimore PT can help alleviate your chronic ankle pain

Chronic ankle pain can make it difficult for you to carry out your daily activities, but Lattimore PT is here to help. We’ll carry out an evaluation of your pain in order to determine the cause of the issue. Then we’ll design a personalized treatment plan with the techniques that will be most effective in helping decrease the pain and improve your ankle’s range of motion.

Our physical therapy techniques will help you alleviate your current pain while improving the overall quality of your ankle to keep it healthy in the future.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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