Ankle Pain

Ankle Pain

Is this your symptom?

  • Pain in the ankle

Causes

There are many possible causes of ankle pain. Some more common causes are:

  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Cellulitis (skin infection)
  • Joint sprain
  • Overuse

Often ankle pain can be from arthritis. Arthritis means joint ("arthr") inflammation ("itis"). Pain is worse with walking or moving the inflamed joint. The most common forms of arthritis that affect the ankle are:

  • Gout: This type of arthritis happens to some people because of a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints. Pain from gout or gouty arthritis comes on quickly. A person will notice rapid onset of severe pain, redness, and swelling in one joint.
  • Osteoarthritis: This is also called "wear and tear" arthritis. It is the most common type of arthritis. As people get older the cartilage in the joints wears down. This type of arthritis often affects both sides of the body equally. The joints hurt and feel stiff. Osteoarthritis is seen more often after age 50. Nearly everyone will get some degree of wear and tear arthritis as they get older.
  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis: This type of arthritis can develop years after a bad ankle injury. It can happen after an ankle fracture or a severe sprain.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is a rare type of arthritis. It usually affects both sides of the body. In addition to pain, there can be joint redness, swelling, stiffness, and warmth. Special blood tests are needed to diagnose this type of arthritis.

When Should You Seek Medical Help Right Away?

Here are some signs that the ankle pain might be serious. You should seek medical help right away if:

  • Signs of infection occur (such as spreading redness, red streak, warmth)
  • Rash or blisters in same area as pain
  • Joint swelling with fever

Pain Scale

  • None: No pain. Pain score is 0 on a scale of 0 to 10.
  • Mild: The pain does not keep you from work, school, or other normal activities. Pain score is 1-3 on a scale of 0 to 10.
  • Moderate: The pain keeps you from working or going to school. It wakes you up from sleep. Pain score is 4-7 on a scale of 0 to 10.
  • Severe: The pain is very bad. It may be worse than any pain you have had before. It keeps you from doing any normal activities. Pain score is 8-10 on a scale of 0 to 10.

When to Call for Ankle Pain

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Severe pain (can't stand or walk)
  • Redness of skin around ankle
  • Pain or swelling in one calf
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Looks like a boil, infected sore, or other infected rash
  • Red area of skin that is painful (or tender to touch)
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Ankle pain keeps you from working or going to school
  • Ankle pain lasts more than 7 days
  • Ankle pains off and on for weeks or months (are frequent, come and go)
  • Swollen ankle
  • Limping when walking
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Mild ankle pain

Care Advice

Mild Ankle Pain

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Ankle pain can be caused by many things, such as overuse and sprains. It can also be caused by arthritis, tendinitis, gout, or a minor sprain.
    • The best way to treat ankle pain will depend on the exact cause.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe pain
    • Pain keeps you from doing normal activities (such as school, work)
    • Pain lasts more than 7 days
    • Signs of infection occur (such as spreading redness, red streak, warmth)
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Overuse or Minor Sprain

  1. What You Should Know - Overuse:
    • Sore joints can occur after vigorous activity (such as long walks, running, or sports). This can happen when your body is not used to this amount of activity.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. What You Should Know - Minor Sprain:
    • A sprain occurs from over-stretching or tearing a ligament. People often call this a "twisted ankle". This injury can occur while walking, stepping down off a curb, or playing a sport.
    • People often feel a sharp pain when the sprain occurs. The pain worsens when moving the ankle.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  3. Apply a Cold Pack:
    • Apply a cold pack or an ice bag (wrapped in a moist towel) to the area for 20 minutes. Repeat this in 1 hour and then every 4 hours while awake.
    • Do this for the first 48 hours after an injury.
    • This will help decrease pain and swelling.
  4. Apply Heat to the Area:
    • Beginning 48 hours after an injury, apply a warm washcloth or heating pad for 10 minutes 3 times a day.
    • This will help increase blood flow and improve healing.
  5. Hot Shower:
    • If stiffness lasts over 48 hours, relax in a hot shower twice a day.
    • Gently move the ankle under the falling water.
  6. Rest vs. Movement:
    • Complete rest should only be used for the first day or two after an injury.
    • Staying active helps muscle healing more than resting does.
    • Continue normal activities as much as your pain permits.
    • Avoid active sports for 1 to 2 weeks or until the pain and swelling are gone.
  7. What to Expect:
    • Pain from overuse or a minor sprain should start to get better in a couple days.
    • The pain should go away within one week.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe pain
    • Pain keeps you from doing normal activities (such as school, work)
    • Pain lasts more than 7 days
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Over-The-Counter Pain Medicines

  1. Pain Medicine:
    • You can take one of the following drugs if you have pain: acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve).
    • They are over-the-counter (OTC) pain drugs. You can buy them at the drugstore.
    • Use the lowest amount of a drug that makes your pain feel better.
    • Acetaminophen is safer than ibuprofen or naproxen in people over 65 years old.
    • Read the instructions and warnings on the package insert for all medicines you take.
  2. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You have more questions
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 11/24/2017 1:30:10 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:35:57 PM

Copyright 2000-2017 Health Navigator, Inc. All rights reserved.