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What are the Most Common Causes of Ankle and Foot Pain?

By A. Garrett
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ankle and foot pain are caused by a variety of factors. Discomfort in the ankle often arises from an ankle injury or foot injury such as a sprain or fracture. Arthritis is another producer of ankle or foot pain. Metatarsalgia, the medical term for foot pain, may also result from degeneration of the tendons associated with the ankle or foot. Finally, wearing shoes that do not fit properly can cause ankle and foot pain.

Ankle pain is the natural effect of trauma to the ankle. When the foot is twisted or turned in an awkward, unexpected manner, a sprained ankle may occur. Essentially, a sprained ankle is an injury to the ligaments that control the movement of the ankle joint. If these ligaments are stretched beyond their elastic capacity, they are torn. Following the spraining of an ankle, bruising and swelling should be expected.

Distinguishing between an ankle sprain and ankle fracture is important for identifying the cause of the pain. A prolonged period of pain and swelling of the ankle usually indicates a fracture. An ankle is fractured when the tibia or fibia bones break. Symptoms of bruising, swelling, and pain accompany an ankle fracture and contribute to the mis-diagnosis of a fracture as merely a sprain. Typically, surgery and a cast are required for the mending of a broken bone in the ankle.

Arthritis is another common cause of ankle and foot pain. When the joints of the ankle become frayed or damaged, inflammation or infection results. Typically, athletes and people who are overweight develop arthritis because they put more strain on their joints. Arthritis causes the foot to lose stability and the sufferer of arthritis may have more difficulty with balance. Symptoms associated with arthritis include pain and swelling of the ankle and foot as well as inflexibility; treatment includes anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the swelling and cortisone shots.

Tendinitis also serves as the basis for ankle and foot pain. Tendons are tissues that connect the muscles to the bones. When the tendons become irritated or damaged due to overuse, tendinitis results. Usually the tendon becomes sensitive and swells following an injury. Also, there will be pain when moving the muscles in the foot and ankle that are associated with those tendons.

If a shoe is too tight, it may restrict blood flow and inhibit the growth of bones in the foot. This can cause pain in the ankle and foot. Loose fitting shoes may not provide enough support for the ankle and make it more susceptible to breaks or fractures. High heeled shoes also cause ankle and foot pain because they place the foot at an unnatural angle.

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