Ankle Pain

ExitCare ImageAnkle pain is a common symptom. The bones, cartilage, tendons, and muscles of the ankle joint perform a lot of work each day. The ankle joint holds your body weight and allows you to move around. Ankle pain can occur on either side or back of 1 or both ankles. Ankle pain may be sharp and burning or dull and aching. There may be tenderness, stiffness, redness, or warmth around the ankle. The pain occurs more often when a person walks or puts pressure on the ankle.


There are many reasons ankle pain can develop. It is important to work with your caregiver to identify the cause since many conditions can impact the bones, cartilage, muscles, and tendons. Causes for ankle pain include:

  • Injury, including a break (fracture), sprain, or strain often due to a fall, sports, or a high-impact activity.

  • Swelling (inflammation) of a tendon (tendonitis).

  • Achilles tendon rupture.

  • Ankle instability after repeated sprains and strains.

  • Poor foot alignment.

  • Pressure on a nerve (tarsal tunnel syndrome).

  • Arthritis in the ankle or the lining of the ankle.

  • Crystal formation in the ankle (gout or pseudogout).


A diagnosis is based on your medical history, your symptoms, results of your physical exam, and results of diagnostic tests. Diagnostic tests may include X-ray exams or a computerized magnetic scan (magnetic resonance imaging, MRI).


Treatment will depend on the cause of your ankle pain and may include:

  • Keeping pressure off the ankle and limiting activities.

  • Using crutches or other walking support (a cane or brace).

  • Using rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

  • Participating in physical therapy or home exercises.

  • Wearing shoe inserts or special shoes.

  • Losing weight.

  • Taking medications to reduce pain or swelling or receiving an injection.

  • Undergoing surgery.


  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Put ice on the injured area.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15-20 minutes at a time, 03-04 times a day.

  • Keep your leg raised (elevated) when possible to lessen swelling.

  • Avoid activities that cause ankle pain.

  • Follow specific exercises as directed by your caregiver.

  • Record how often you have ankle pain, the location of the pain, and what it feels like. This information may be helpful to you and your caregiver.

  • Ask your caregiver about returning to work or sports and whether you should drive.

  • Follow up with your caregiver for further examination, therapy, or testing as directed.


  • Pain or swelling continues or worsens beyond 1 week.

  • You have an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C).

  • You are feeling unwell or have chills.

  • You are having an increasingly difficult time with walking.

  • You have loss of sensation or other new symptoms.

  • You have questions or concerns.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.