Pain in the Ankle

By Andrew Heideman, PT, ATC

Causes of Pain in the Ankle

This condition can be for several different reasons. The ankle joint can be injured by ligament sprain or fracture.  The severity of the injury is determined by the amount of damage to the ankle’s ligaments or a fracture or break to the bones of the ankle.  An X-ray will determine if the ankle is brok.

image of anatomy of the ankle

Pain in the ankle joint causes

The anatomy of the pain in the ankle.


Ankle Sprains

There are 3 different grades of ankle sprains:

  • Grade I ankle sprain – The lateral ligaments are strained or overstretched but not torn.  This is the most common of the ankle sprains with mild swelling.  Mild swelling is present with some pain over one of the three lateral ligaments.
  • Grade II ankle sprain – This is when there is partial tearing of one or several of these ligaments.  Moderate swelling is present over the outside of the ankle. The patient will need some assistance to walk without a limp.
  • Grade III ankle sprain – This is a complete rupture (tear) of one or more of the lateral ligaments—significant swelling and pain over the lateral aspect of the ankle.  The patient has pain when they try to bear weight on the ankle.  This sometimes requires surgical intervention.
image of icing swollen injured ankle

Icing will help pain and swelling

The severity of the ankle injury can be determined by the amount of swelling, the inability to bear weight on the ankle, and the amount of pain.  The proper evaluation of an orthopedic physician is important.

Our medical library and trending section also has articles about the other causes of pain in the ankle.  Here are the link for the library and our JOI trending section.

Are There Foot and Ankle Symptoms that I Should Not Ignore?

The quick answer is yes.  If you have pain with walking or increased swelling in your feet or ankles, you should see a foot and ankle specialist.  To learn more, read this article on 5 Foot and Ankle Symptoms You Should Not Ignore.

Physical Therapy for Ankle Pain 

image of physical therapy for the ankle

JOI physical therapy

Physical Therapy often helps with the pain and swelling associated with ankle injuries.  Sometimes a walking boot or a brace will help to immobilize the joint.  Crutches will help decrease the amount of pressure on the joint to allow the joint to heal.  Physical therapy modalities and gentle ROM can help decrease the swelling and pain in the ankle joint.  It is also important to continue rehab to improve the strength and proprioception or balance of the involved ankle.

Related Articles:

Ankle Arthroscopy: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding turf toe injuries symptoms treatment

What is a Lisfranc Injury?

Preventing low ankle sprain tips and techniques

JOI and JOI Rehab

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