When you have ankle pain, your normal life activities get disrupted. You cannot stand on your feet or walk around as such activities puts a lot of pressure on the ankle. Read this article to find out about the major possible causes of ankle pain.
The ankle joint has a complex structure. Its structural components include bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons that add stability to the joint where the leg and foot meet. Ankle pain is often categorized into acute and chronic pain. Acute ankle pain starts all of a sudden and is mostly triggered by an injury. Usually, it subsides once the injury is healed up. On the other hand, chronic ankle pain lasts for a longer time.
Common Causes of Ankle Pain
The ankle joint gets injured rather easily while running, walking or jumping. Besides injuries, pain in the ankle can be a symptom of a number of underlying diseases. Some of the most prevalent causes are discussed here:
This happens when the foot gets twisted and the ankle rolls over. As a result, the ligaments that provide support to the two adjoining bones are stretched too much. It can cause partial or complete tear in the ligaments. The joint is susceptible to frequent sprains particularly during sports activities that involve jerking motion like basketball. Nonathletes can get ankle sprain because of wearing high heel shoes, walking on an uneven surface or an accidental misstep.
This can be described as hairline crack that develops on the foot and ankle bones due to repetitive pressure or stress on them. It is not caused by any one single traumatic injury. This is a stress related injury where the ankle pain grows over a period of time. Unlike other injuries, the unique characteristic of stress fracture is that it causes pain without any swelling.
Jumping on hard surfaces, running long distances are some of the factors that are often held responsible for this kind of injury. Those who are suffering from osteoporosis are prone to stress fractures as their bones are already weakened by the disease. Obese people tend to suffer from stress fracture as their feet have to bear the heavy bodyweight all the time.
This is often responsible for chronic ankle pain particularly in elderly people. It is characterized by symptoms like ankle joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Here, the ankle joint is degenerated by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. This kind of deterioration of the joint is mostly caused by aging. However, it may develop in younger people too because of a neglected injury.
This is another form of arthritis where there is large-scale accumulation of uric acid in the ankle and foot area. This uric acid build up causes severe burning pain in the ankle that starts all of a sudden and is known as gout attack. It makes the ankle and foot so sensitive that even a slight touch on the area can cause a lot of pain. The gout attack tends to recur from time to time.
The Achilles tendon joins the calf muscles of the lower part of the leg with the heel bone. Achilles tendinitis is one such condition where inflammation occurs in this tendon because of overuse of calf muscles during running, exercising, jumping, etc. For this reason, it is mostly found in sports persons. Arthritic patients may also get this problem.
The most important part of treatment is rest. You must have noticed that the pain tends to get aggravated whenever you exert too much. Therefore, restrict your movements for some time in order to ease off the pressure from the weakened ankle joint. While resting your feet, keep them in a slightly elevated position. This will help you control the swelling. You can reduce the intensity of pain and swelling with the help of ice application. Wrap up an ice cube in a small piece of cloth and place it over the painful site for 15 – 20 minutes. It should be repeated several times after a gap of one hour.
If the pain is unbearable, it is advisable to consult a doctor. He will ascertain the severity of the injury with the help of physical examination and laboratory tests like x-rays, MRI, etc. Pain relieving medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be prescribed for pain management. If the condition of the ankle is unstable due to sprain, then the doctor may wrap up the ankle with an ACE bandage to provide adequate support to it. In some cases, he may recommend use of braces or cast so that the ankle can heal up soon. In cases where the ligaments or tendons are in a badly damaged state, surgery is needed to repair the tear.
Ankle pain caused by minor injuries usually subsides within 10 days. The recovery time for serious ankle pain can be as long as 5-6 weeks. In case of surgery, it takes a few months for complete healing. Do not resume your activities unless and until your ankle has healed up properly or your health care provider has asked you to do so, to prevent further damage to the already fragile ankle joint.