Pain coming from or around the ankle joint. In this article we look at symptoms, causes and treatment options.
Common conditions and causes of ankle pain
Ankle pain is a complaint that affects individuals of all ages and activity levels. It can result from a wide range of conditions and injuries, leading to discomfort, limited mobility, and possibly decreased quality of life. There are some common causes of ankle pain and on this page, we will shed some light on their underlying mechanisms and present evidence-based solutions for their management.
One of the most frequent causes of ankle pain is an ankle sprain, which occurs when the ligaments that support the ankle joint are stretched or torn. The lateral ankle sprain is the most common type and typically results from an inversion injury, where the foot rolls inward. This mechanism places excessive stress on the lateral ligaments, such as the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), causing pain, swelling, and instability (Kerkhoffs et al., 2012). Proper diagnosis and management of ankle sprains are crucial to prevent chronic instability and recurrent injuries. At Skelian, if you come to us with an ankle sprain, we will assess you using orthopaedic and functional when physically examining you. If the sprain is severe enough we may refer you for diagnostic imaging. We have a specialist physiotherapist who works in house and provides diagnostic ultrasounds or we may refer you for an MRI if required.
Achilles tendinitis, characterised by inflammation of the Achilles tendon, is another common cause of ankle pain. Repetitive overuse, excessive training, inadequate warm-up, and improper footwear are risk factors contributing to the development of this condition (Maffulli et al., 2014). Individuals often experience pain and stiffness along the back of the ankle, particularly during physical activity. Treatment usually involves a combination of rest, physical therapy, and orthotic devices, with a gradual return to activity to promote tendon healing and prevent re-injury. At Skelian we offer Shockwave therapy as one of our treatment options for Achilles tendinopathy which has been shown to be effective for this condition.
Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, can also affect the ankle joint, leading to chronic pain and functional impairment. This condition arises due to the gradual breakdown of cartilage, resulting in joint space narrowing and the formation of bone spurs. Ankle osteoarthritis may develop following a previous injury, such as a fracture or dislocation, or it may occur as a part of the ageing process (Brodsky, 2011). Management strategies include weight management, manual therapy, pain medications, and, in severe cases, surgical interventions may be needed.
Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis caused by the deposition of uric acid crystals in the joints, including the ankle. It typically starts with sudden and severe pain, redness, swelling, and warmth in the affected joint. Gout commonly affects the big toe, but the ankle can also be involved. Elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, often due to dietary factors, are a primary risk factor for gout (Pascual & Ramiro, 2021). At Skelian, we are unable to directly treat gout but we may be able to help diagnose the condition, where we can refer you to the relevant healthcare professional for your case. In most cases, treatment involves lifestyle modifications, medications to lower uric acid levels, and the management of acute flares using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids.
Ankle pain treatments
Ankle pain can stem from various causes, each requiring specific diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Ankle sprains, Achilles tendinitis, osteoarthritis, and gout are among the most common conditions leading to ankle pain. Timely and accurate diagnosis, along with evidence-based management strategies, is essential to alleviate pain, restore function, and prevent long-term complications.
Here at Skelian, we offer a variety of different treatments and diagnostic options if you are struggling with ankle pain. The first port of call is always to thoroughly assess your condition to give you an accurate diagnosis as possible to then formulate a treatment or management plan depending on the condition. We offer in house diagnostic ultrasound scans that can help identify the cause of your ankle pain, or we have the option to refer you for a private MRI in Cheltenham.
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