Your ankle is an intricate network of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Strong enough to bear your body weight and enable you to move, your ankle can be prone to injury and pain.
You might feel the pain on the inside or outside of your ankle or along the Achilles tendon, which connects the muscles in your lower leg to your heel bone. Although mild ankle pain often responds well to home treatments, it can take time to resolve. You should see your doctor for severe ankle pain, especially if it follows an injury.
Injury to any of the ankle bones, ligaments or tendons and several types of arthritis can cause ankle pain. Common causes of ankle pain include:
- Achilles tendinitis
- Achilles tendon rupture
- Avulsion fracture
- Broken foot
- Bursitis (joint inflammation)
- Gout (arthritis related to excess uric acid)
- Osteoarthritis (disease causing the breakdown of joints)
- Osteochondritis dissecans
- Plantar fasciitis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Reactive arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease)
- Septic arthritis
- Sprained ankle
- Stress fractures
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
When to see a doctor
Even a relatively benign ankle injury can be quite painful, at least at first. It’s usually safe to try home remedies for a while.
Seek immediate medical attention if you:
- Have severe pain or swelling
- Have an open wound or severe deformity
- Have signs of infection, such as redness, warmth and tenderness in the affected area or a fever greater than 100 F (37.8 C)
- Cannot put weight on your foot
Schedule an office visit if you:
- Have persistent swelling that doesn’t improve after two to five days of home treatment
- Have persistent pain that doesn’t improve after several weeks
For many ankle injuries, self-care measures ease the pain. Examples include:
- Rest. Keep weight off your ankle as much as possible. Take a break from your normal activities.
- Ice. Place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas on your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day.
- Compression. Use a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
- Elevation. Elevate your foot above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling.
- Over-the-counter pain medications. Drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can ease pain and aid healing.
Even with the best of care, you may have some ankle swelling, stiffness or pain, particularly first thing in the morning or after you’ve been active, for several weeks.