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Alternative Names Return to topPain - ankle
Definition Return to topAnkle pain involves any discomfort in one or both ankles.
Considerations Return to top
Ankle pain is often due to an ankle sprain. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments, which connect bones to one another. In most cases of ankle sprain, the ankle is twisted inward, causing small tears in the ligaments. This makes the ankle unstable. The tearing leads to swelling and bruising, making it difficult to bear weight on the joint.
Once an ankle is sprained, the injury may take a few weeks to many months to fully heal. Often, the injured ankle remains a little weaker and less stable than the uninjured one. A proper recovery program can prevent this problem.
Other structures in the ankle that can be damaged and cause pain are tendons (which join muscles to bone), cartilage (which cushions joints), and blood vessels. Adjacent areas can cause pain to be felt in (referred to) the ankle -- these include the foot, lower leg, knee, and even hip.
Causes Return to top
In addition to ankle sprains and other injuries, ankle pain can be caused by arthritis, gout, pseudogout, and infection.
Gout occurs when you produce too much uric acid (a waste product in the body). The extra uric acid gets deposited and forms crystals in joints, rather than being excreted in the urine.
Pseudogout is similar to gout. In this condition, calcium deposits in one or more of your joints, causing pain, redness, and swelling.
The types of arthritis that can cause ankle pain include:
Home Care Return to top
Even after the pain subsides, you will need to keep pressure off of it for up to 10 days for a mild sprain and up to 5 weeks for a more severe sprain.
Once you have healed adequately, you can start exercises to strengthen your ankle and avoid injury in the future. Do not begin these exercises until a health care professional tells you it is safe to start. One exercise, for example, involves balancing on your healing foot and hopping.
For arthritis of the ankle, take medication exactly as prescribed. When the pain and swelling start to decrease, gently begin to exercise the joint again. Swimming is good, followed by stretching. Walking can be added later. Exercises can be done several times a day; but DO NOT overdo it. Pain is a message from your body to stop.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Go to the hospital or call 911 if:
Call your doctor if:
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
Your doctor will perform a physical examination, including a detailed examination of the ankles, and ask questions such as:
Diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:
Prevention Return to top
References Return to top
Chorley JN. Ankle sprain discharge instructions from the emergency department. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2005; 21(8): 498-501.
Van Rijn RM, van Os AG, Bernsen R, Luijsterburg PA, Koes BW, Bierma_Zeinstra SM. What is the clinical course of acute ankle sprains? A systematic literature review. Am J Med. 2008;121:324-331.e6.
Osborne MD. Chronic ankle instability. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2008:chap 77.
Ivins D. Acute ankle sprain: an update. Am Fam Physician. 2006;74:1714-1720.Update Date: 2/3/2009 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.