What Causes Chronic Ankle Pain?

Erin J. Hill

Chronic ankle pain generally comes as the result of a severe injury to the ankle, or due to a debilitating condition like arthritis. Most minor injuries, such as sprains and pulls, heal quickly and do not cause lasting effects to the joint. In some cases, however, long-term pain and discomfort can result. Athletes are most at risk for chronic ankle pain because they often withstand repeat injuries, severe sprains, and resumed activity before the ankle has fully healed. These situations can often result in long-lasting pain and soreness.

Ice is often used to treat the swelling caused by a sprained ankle.
Ice is often used to treat the swelling caused by a sprained ankle.

A severe sprain is the most common reason for chronic ankle pain. Sprains generally result from twisting the foot inward or outward in a jerking motion, resulting in injury to the ligaments in the ankle. After a sprain, it is advised that injured people keep the joint tightly wrapped and elevated. Ice may help bring down swelling, and over the counter medications can be taken to help ease discomfort. Most importantly, no weight should be placed on the sprained ankle for as long as possible, and only minimal force should be applied until full healing has taken place.

A sprained ligament is a common cause of ankle pain, but chronic pain may be due to arthritis.
A sprained ligament is a common cause of ankle pain, but chronic pain may be due to arthritis.

Many cases of chronic ankle pain occur when someone puts too much pressure on an injured ankle before it is entirely healed. This can result in repeated injury or an incomplete healing of the ankle. When healing is not completed, the joint is more susceptible to repeated strains and other injuries.

Tendinitis is another common cause of chronic ankle pain. This results from a variety of causes, including arthritis and injury, and causes pain in the tendons of the ankle. Treatments and outlook may depend on the cause. Some injuries may continue to heal with time if no further damage is done, but arthritis is something that can only be managed, rather than fixed. Most cases are treated with rest and medication, with dosages and types depending on the severity of pain.

Inflammation of the joint or nerves within the ankle may also cause long-standing pain and discomfort. Again, injury is a primary cause of these conditions. If proper healing does not occur, pain may be managed through rest and medication.

Chronic ankle pain can usually be avoided by taking special care of any injuries that occur. Keeping pressure and weight off the area is crucial to proper healing, as is avoiding activities which may result in repeated injury to the joint. When these things cannot be done, every effort should be made to comply as often as possible to keep pain to a minimum.

Tendinitis is a common cause of chronic ankle pain.
Tendinitis is a common cause of chronic ankle pain.

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