Swollen Ankle

By Ehren Allen, Certified Manual Therapist/Physical Therapist

How do you Treat Swollen Ankle(s) and Feet?

JOI Swollen Foot

Graphic of an injured ankle.

Treating a swollen ankle or foot is dependent on the cause of the swelling. It could possibly require a physician to help determine the cause. There are several medical conditions which may lead to increased swelling in the ankles. Some of these include:

  • Venous Insufficiency: Occurs when the blood does not travel back out of the ankle and foot due to problems with the veins.
  • Sprained Ankle or Foot: Sprained ligament can cause swelling and pain in the ankle and foot.
  • Fractures: Fracture in the foot causes a flood of blood and fluid to the area which can accumulate in the ankle and foot.
  • Lymphedema: The lymphatic system can be damaged or altered due to surgery or cancer. The drainage of fluids and waste from the ankle and foot may be compromised and cause increased swelling in the ankle and foot.

In most cases, ankle swelling can be treated by elevation and possibly compression stockings. Exercises such as ankle pumps (flexing and extending the foot) can help to push swelling out of the ankles. In relation to fractures, casting or immobilization could be needed to ensure proper healing. Generally, the swelling improves as healing occurs. Lymphedema is a complicated issue which may require a combination of compression and manual lymph drainage. Treatment is commonly done by a physical or occupational therapist with specific training in lymphedema.

Can Swollen Ankles or Feet be Serious?

If there is proper treatment, swollen ankles typically improve. If left untreated, swollen ankles can lead to dangerous medical conditions. In addition, if you have venous insufficiency, the blood may remain in the veins for an extended period of time which may allow it to clot. Venous insufficiency can produce a life threatening condition in which the clot may travel to heart or lungs. Swelling due to diabetic conditions may lead to more complicated issues if there is a loss of sensation in the foot or ankle. The risk of infection is higher as healing occurs slower when patients have diabetes.

What causes Water Retention in Ankles?

Water retention in the ankles may be due to any of the conditions listed above and may be treated with compression, elevation, and exercises. Medical management may be required as well. In patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), the heart does not function at its full capacity and may be unable to facilitate proper return of blood to the heart. CHF may lead to increased swelling in the legs and ankles. Water pills (diuretics) may be prescribed to assist with removing the excess fluids from the ankles and legs.

How do you get rid of Swollen Ankle(s) and Feet?

Here are some steps to take if you want to limit swollen ankles and feet.

  • Determine the cause: You may need to see a physician for medical management.
  • Elevate the legs.
  • Use compression stockings.
  • Utilize movement exercises.
  • Limit the amount of salt you take in.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight or BMI (Body Mass Index).

Interested in scheduling an appointment at JOI? Visit our homepage at joionline.net and click “schedule an appointment” or call (904) JOI-2000.


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JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP Fracture care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care.

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Author: Ehren Allen, PT, COMT

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