All About Ankle Pain – Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

The ankle is a complex structure made up of muscles, ligaments, bones, and tendons. The foot and ankle work together to provide the body mobility and support. Although it is strong enough to bear the weight of the entire body, the ankle is also prone to injury and pain.

Ankle Pain Symptoms

Pain, bruising, swelling, and the inability to walk on the affected foot are common signs of ankle fracture or sprain, the most common causes of ankle pain.

Home Care

Some ankle pain responds well to basic home care measures. Stay off the ankle as much as possible, and use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and swelling. Remember the acronym “R.I.C.E.”

Rest: Stay off the affected foot or ankle until it can be examined by a podiatrist. Avoid intense physical activity such as running or playing sports, which may make the injury worse.

Ice: Ice decreases ankle pain by reducing inflammation. As soon as possible, apply ice to the affected ankle for no more than 20 minutes. For the first two days after injury, reapply the ice for 15-20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours.

Compression: Wrap the affected ankle with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace bandage). The wrapping should be tight enough to stabilize the ankle, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation.

Elevation: Elevating the limb decreases swelling. Rest the affected ankle on pillows. Make sure your ankle is higher than your heart, and keep it elevated.

When to Call the Podiatrist

Make an office visit with your podiatrist if:

  • Persistent swelling doesn’t improve after 2-5 days of home treatment
  • Persistent pain doesn’t improve after 1-2 weeks
  • You have signs of infection (warmth, redness, and tenderness in the ankle, or a temperature of 100 degrees F (37.8 C)
  • You cannot put any weight on your foot

Call 911 immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe pain or swelling
  • There is an open wound
  • The ankle joint is deformed
  • You suspect that you have a broken bone

Ankle Pain Causes and Treatments

Ankle sprains and breaks (fractures) are the most common causes of ankle pain, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between them. Your podiatrist will make a diagnosis after performing a thorough examination, taking a complete history, and possibly ordering some imaging studies (such as x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI). X-rays are useful for identifying broken bones, and ultrasounds and MRIs locate soft tissue injuries like torn ligaments. The podiatrist may also aspirate (remove fluid from) the joint for additional tests.

Broken Bones

Podiatrists may try to “reduce” an ankle fracture by lining up the ends of the bones so they will heal properly. Patients receive anesthesia before the procedure to avoid unnecessary pain. If the ends of the bones will not stay in place after the reduction, the patient may require surgery. In this case, the podiatrist will use metal screws and plates to repair broken bones. Stress fractures are smaller breaks or cracks in the bone resulting from repeated stress, and are very common in athletes. They are often treated with rest and staying off the affected area until it has healed completely. If you have stress fractures, your podiatrist may recommend that you use crutches or wear a special “boot” to immobilize the ankle during healing.


Sprains are the most common foot and ankle injury. A sprained ankle may result from a sudden twisting or sideways movement of the foot, either inward or outward. The ankle ligament is stretched too far, partially or completely tearing it. Sprains may result from common everyday activities, such as running on an uneven surface, landing after a high jump, stepping off a curb, or slipping on ice. If you suspect you’ve sprained your ankle, remember to use “R.I.C.E.” and follow up with your podiatrist if you don’t experience relief within 2-5 days.

Prevention of Ankle Sprains and Fractures

Always remember to:

  • Warm up properly before physical activity
  • Wear proper shoes for each activity
  • Avoid running or walking on uneven surfaces

Schedule An Appointment With A Specialist

Dr. Jordan R. Stewart has extensive experience treating ankle conditions, including general, sports, and work related. His office is equipped with the latest technology to help diagnose and treat your condition(s).

If you have an ankle injury or are experiencing ankle pain or discomfort give us a call today at 410-560-2777 or fill out the form on the top right of this page.

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