Ankle pain: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Ankle pain and stiffness are classic signs of ankle osteoarthritis. Many people initially dismiss these symptoms, attributing them to the results of aging or an old injury “acting up.” Left untreated, however, symptoms can gradually worsen and start to interfere with everyday activities. Ankle pain refers to any type of pain or discomfort in your ankles. This pain could be caused by an injury, like a sprain, or by a medical condition, such as arthritis.

causes and symptoms of ankle pain


Causes of Ankle Pain

A sprain is a common cause of ankle pain. Pain can also be a result of:

  • arthritis (specifically osteoarthritis)

  • gout

  • nerve damage or injury, such as sciatica

  • blocked blood vessels

  • infection in the joint

A sprain is generally caused when the ankle rolls or twists so that the outside ankle moves toward the ground, tearing the ligaments of the ankle that hold the bones together. Rolling the ankle can also cause damage to the cartilage or tendons of your ankle.

Symptoms of Ankle Pain

Gout occurs when uric acid builds up in the body. This higher than normal concentration of uric acid (a by-product of the body’s normal breakdown of old cells) can deposit crystals in the joints, causing sharp pain. Pseudo gout is a similar condition where calcium deposits build up in the joints. Symptoms of both gout and pseudo gout include pain, swelling, and redness.

Arthritis can also cause ankle pain. Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints. Multiple types of arthritis can cause pain in the ankles, but osteoarthritis is the most common. Osteoarthritis is often caused by wear and tear on the joints. The older people are, the more likely they are to develop osteoarthritis.

Septic arthritis is arthritis that is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. This can cause pain in the ankles, if the ankles are one of the areas infected.

 Diagnosis of Ankle Pain

  • Imaging tests like an x-ray or MRI help your doctor see within your ankle and can help diagnose arthritis ankle pain.

  • A blood test, joint fluid test or other lab test can help your doctor confirm that your ankle pain is arthritis. Learn what to expect from these lab tests.

  • When you have symptoms like prolonged swelling or pain in your ankle, it is time to visit the doctor for a diagnosis.

Caring for Ankle Pain

As per causes and symptoms for immediate at home treatment of ankle pain, the RICE method is recommended. This includes:


avoid putting weight on your ankle. Try to move as little as possible for the first few days. Use crutches or a cane if you have to walk or move.


Begin by putting a bag of ice on your ankle for at least 20 minutes at a time. Do this three to five times a day for three days after the injury. This helps reduce swelling and numb pain. Give yourself about 90 minutes between icing sessions.


Wrap your injured ankle with an elastic bandage, like an ACE bandage. Do not wrap it so tightly that your ankle becomes numb or that your toes turn blue.


whenever possible, keep your ankle raised above heart level on a stack of pillows or other type of support structure.


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