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Ankle Pain

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What is it?

Ankle pain can be discomfort in one or both ankles.The most common ankle injuries are sprains and fractures, which involve ligaments and bones in the ankle. You can also tear or strain a tendon.An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments that connect the bones. 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 itdifficult to bear weight on the joint. An ankle sprain may take a few weeks to many months to fully heal.  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. Sometimes ankle pain can be “referred” to the foot, lower leg, knee, and hip.


What causes it?

Ankle injuries can happen to anyone at any age.Fractures and sprains can result from the ankle joint being twisted too far out of its normal position. 

This can happen as a result of:  

  • Tripping or falling
  • Landing awkwardly after a jump
  • Walking or running on uneven surfaces
  • A sudden impact, such as a car crash
  • Twisting or rotating the ankle
  • Rolling the ankle  

Most ankle injuries occur either during sports activities or while walking on an uneven surface, forcing the foot and ankle into an unnatural position.Ankle pain can also 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 builds up in one or more of your joints, causing pain, redness, and swelling.

 

Common treatments 

The treatment for ankle sprains depends on the severity of the injury – mild, moderate, or severe.  

Surgery is not usually atreatment option unless the damage is extensive and involves more than the ligaments or unless other treatment options fail.  

Ankle pain usually requires rest for several days. If the ankle is unstable, it is usually supported with bandages or a brace. Crutches or a cane can also help take the weight off a sore or unsteady ankle.  

Pain from ankle injuries can be relieved by icing the area immediately. Ice should then be applied for 10-15 minutes everyhour for the first day.  Medications such as panadeine, panadol or nurofen are often used for pain and swelling.  

For arthritis of the ankle, a prescribed medication is usually taken.  

You should always contact a medical professional if:  

  • You have severe pain when not bearing weight or you suspect a broken bone (the joint appears deformed and you cannot put any weight on the leg).

  • If you have immediate difficulty using the joint.

  • The swelling does not subside within 2-3 days.

  • You have symptoms of infection (redness, more pain, warmth, fever).

Fractures can be treated either surgically or non-surgically. If only one bone is broken, and if the bones are not out of place and the ankle is stable, the doctor may treat the break without surgery by immobilizing the ankle using a brace or a cast. If the ankle is unstable, the fracture will be treated surgically.


Options for treating tendon injuries are similar to options for treating sprains. They include:  

  • Immobilization using a cast or splint

  • Oral or injected anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain

  • Physical therapy for range of motion, strength and balance

  • A brace to provide support during activities

  • Surgery to repair the tendon or tendons and sometimes to repair the supporting structures of the foot

 

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About Pain does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment