Ankle pain can occur for many reasons ranging from acute injuries like an ankle sprain or fracture to chronic conditions like arthritis. An ankle sprain is the most common ankle injury which occurs after a fall, sudden twist, or a blow. It is estimated that 40% of people with an ankle sprain may experience chronic ankle pain even after being treated for the initial injury. This can happen because of lack of proper physical therapy or immobilization after the sprain or any other ankle injury. Let us look at the causes of chronic ankle pain:
What are the causes of chronic ankle pain?
Many conditions can lead to chronic ankle pain like:
Chronic ankle pain after a sprain:
It can happen due to:
- Lack of prescribed mobility and strengthening exercises
- Lack of early immobilization
- Development of scar tissue
- Too much immobilization
Around 50% of people between the ages of 60 and 70 years old have arthritis-related chronic foot pain. Almost 90% of people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis will experience pain in the foot or ankles.
Inflammation in the tendons in the ankle joint is called tendonitis. This usually happens when patients fail to take proper care of the joint after a sprain or an injury. Symptoms can include swelling, tenderness and long-lasting pain in the ankle and foot.
Some people may suffer from ankle pain due to Gout. Symptoms may include severe pain, swelling, redness.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome:
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is nerve compression in the ankle joint. It can happen due to previous injury, diabetes, or arthritis. Symptoms can include burning pain in the ankle and sole of the foot, pain at night, and numbness in the bottom of the foot.
When the synovial membrane gets inflamed, it is called synovitis. It can lead to chronic pain and swelling.
What is the treatment for chronic ankle pain?
Treatment may include:
RICE: It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Your doctor may suggest you follow the RICE method after minor ankle injuries or sprain.
Cast or a brace: Casts can help the joint to heal after an injury. A brace can help you continue exercises or physical therapy and aid in recovery.
Physical therapy: If you do not get relief with rest, the doctor may recommend physical therapy. It helps you to:
- Strengthen the muscles around the joint
- Improve the range of movement
- Reduce pain and swelling
Medications: The doctor may suggest pain medications along with physical therapy to reduce the pain and inflammation of the tissues in the joint.
Injections: If you do not get relief from medications, your doctor may recommend giving steroid injections directly into the ankle joint. This helps in reducing the pain and inflammation, allowing patients to move around and continue physical therapy.
Surgery: If you do not get relief from any of the non-invasive conservative methods, then your doctor may recommend surgery. Most of the ankle surgeries can be done as an outpatient procedure. Some can be done through arthroscopy, while others may require open surgery. The type of surgery is decided by an orthopedic surgeon depending on the condition causing the chronic pain.