For many people, getting older is associated with simply accepting some aches and pains as part of the aging process. The creaks and pops when you get up in the morning tend to loosen up as you move, and so do some of the little, nagging pains. When it comes to your feet and ankles, the daily wear-and-tear on them may seem to make them candidates for regular aches and pains.
However, even minor twists and turns can set up your ankle for further issues. Tendons, ligaments and cartilage can all receive damage that can undermine the stability of your ankle and may lead to further and more frequent injuries. When an ankle sprain doesn’t heal properly, there’s a chance your ankle could become unstable permanently, or cartilage damage could leave you with a constant limp.
Causes of ankle pain
There are many more possible causes for ankle pain than twists and sprains. If you’re feeling discomfort or pain in your ankle but don’t recall an injury, the underlying reason could be any of the following conditions:
- Achilles tendonitis, or tendon rupture
- Broken bones in the ankle or foot, including hairline or stress fractures
- Inflammation of the ankle’s bursa sac, called bursitis
- Gout, an arthritic condition causes by high levels of uric acid in your body
- Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other type of arthritic condition
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome, a nerve compression condition similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist
When to see a doctor about ankle pain
Unfortunately, pain is often an imperfect indicator of its origins. So while there are some ankle aches that are benign and will clear themselves, these often feel no different than more serious problems.
If you’ve suffered an obvious ankle injury, contact Premier Podiatry or get other medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following:
- An open ankle wound or severe deformity of the ankle joint
- Unbearable pain
- Advanced swelling
- Inability to bear weight on your foot
- Signs of infection, including tenderness, swelling, warmth, or redness, or accompanying fever over normal body temperature
If you haven’t had an obvious injury but ankle pain and swelling persists for more than a few days, contact Premier Podiatry to rule out a more serious issue.
Caring for a painful ankle at home
If you think that your ankle pain isn’t serious, it likely still needs care. Follow the RICE protocol and watch for improvement in your condition. The steps for the RICE protocol include:
Stay off your feet as much as you can and try to avoid activities that cause or aggravate ankle pain.
Use an ice pack, cold compress, or improvised pack such as a bag of frozen peas on the area of pain in your ankle. Ice your ankle about three times a day for 15 to 20 minutes each time.
Wrapping your ankle with an elastic support bandage will help to stabilize the joint and minimize swelling.
When possible, recline with your affected ankle raised above your heart level to reduce swelling and promote natural healing.
Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammation medications can help with both the discomfort and swelling. While it’s normal for your ankle to be painful or stiff in the morning or during activity for weeks, wait no longer than five days to contact Dr. O’Connor at Premier Podiatry, by phone or online, to ensure that you haven’t suffered a severe ankle injury.