What causes pain on the top of the foot near the ankle?

Debilitating pain is frustrating no matter where it’s located in your body. But when you have foot and ankle pain? It can be difficult to do even simple tasks like grocery shopping or walking to the bathroom unassisted. 

At any given time, roughly one-quarter of the population is affected by foot pain. This can range from mild discomfort to severe pain on the top of the foot near the ankle. Chronic foot and ankle pain can negatively impact mood, behavior, the ability to care for yourself, and overall quality of life. It’s a serious condition that shouldn’t be ignored.

Find out what causes pain on the top of the foot near the ankle and how physical therapy can help you decrease the negative impact foot and ankle pain has on your life.

The top 6 causes of pain on the top of the foot near the ankle

Though foot pain is an incredibly common issue for people to face, there are many different possible causes. And different causes require different treatments. Here are a few of the most common causes of pain on the top of the foot near the ankle:

  • Bursitis — Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion and help lubricate joints. Sometimes, these sacs can become irritated and inflamed, which is a condition known as bursitis. If the condition becomes severe enough, it can require surgery.
  • Arthritis — When the cartilage in a joint breaks down and the bones rub together, inflammation and arthritis begin to occur. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Gout is also a form of arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid, which creates crystals that accumulate in the joints.
  • Tendinitis — Tendinitis is a condition caused by irritated and inflamed tendons. It’s common in the Achilles tendon if a tear or rupture occurs due to injury or improper stretching before exercise. If the condition becomes severe enough, it may require surgery to repair.
  • Sprains — Sprains are a frequent ankle injury that happen when the ligaments in your ankle are pushed beyond their limits and stretch or tear. Most of the time, sprains occur when the ankle is forcibly rolled out of its natural position.
  • Fractures — Since there are 28 bones in the foot and ankle area, fractures can happen easily. A simple accident or injury can cause one or more bones to fracture. This can range from mild to severe and cause pain and swelling.
  • Flat foot — Having a flat foot means there is either a low arch or no arch in the architecture of the foot. Flat feet can lead to pinching in the small ligaments on top of the foot. This can cause pain and inflammation in both the foot and ankle. If flat feet symptoms become severe enough, the condition can require surgery.

These are just a few of the many conditions that can cause pain on the top of the foot near the ankle. Regardless of why you are experiencing foot and ankle issues, physical therapy may help reduce your pain and get you back into the swing of your everyday life.

How to treat pain on the top of the foot near the ankle

In mild cases, rest, over-the-counter medications, and supportive footwear or braces may be enough to relieve your injury. But many people need physical therapy to help them regain the quality of life they desire. Here are a few common treatments that may help:

  • Manual therapy — A physical therapist may use a hands-on treatment to help relieve tension and pain in your foot or ankle. Manual therapy can include soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilization.
  • Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) IASTM is a manual therapy technique that can break up scar tissue and relieve tension using specialized instruments. The Graston Technique® is one instrument-assisted manual therapy technique that can help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Electrical stimulation — Electrical stimulation such as TENS (transcutaneous electrical neuromuscular stimulation) can help strengthen muscles, improve circulation and relieve pain by sending an electric current through the affected area.
  • Exercise — Both passive and active exercise can be helpful treatments for pain on the top of the foot near the ankle. Passive exercise is when your physical therapist applies stress to the muscles to stretch them for you. Active exercise such as strength training and core exercises are done by you yourself. Both of these modalities can improve muscle strength and relieve pressure on damaged joints. 

Depending on the cause and severity of your pain, your physical therapy treatment may differ. Our expert physical therapists can design a unique program around your needs.

Why you should consider physical therapy

If you’re dealing with pain on the top of the foot near the ankle, you don’t have to let it dictate your life and mobility. Physical therapy can help you regain range of motion and decrease your pain levels. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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