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Pain in ankle when walking

Ankle Pain When Walking: Why They Hurt & What to Do

Sep 21, 2022

Experiencing ankle pain when walking or even just discomfort is a reason for concern. Sure, if you were to experience pain when lifting something heavy, or even running, this would be a different thing altogether but doing so when walking is an indicator that there’s something going on. In this scenario, it’s important to seek an orthopedic expert, although there are quite a few things you can try and do on your own. So, here are a couple of reasons why your ankles may hurt and what you can do about it.

What Are Some Reasons for Pain in Your Ankles When Walking?

Your ankle is a complex part of your body, seeing as how it consists of several different bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and soft tissues. In general, it consists of five ligaments:

  • Posterior tibiofibular ligament
  • Posterior talofibular ligament
  • Calcaneofibular ligament
  • Anterior talofibular ligament
  • Anterior tibiofibular ligament

And five bones:

  • Fibula
  • Tibia
  • Talus
  • Calcaneus
  • Achilles tendon

Now add the surrounding muscles and tendons to it and you get a lot of potential causes for pain and discomfort. Pain in any muscle, ligament, or soft tissue in this region will be interpreted as ankle pain.

While feeling a sharp pain in the ankle is not something tied exclusively to a single factor, there are a couple of risk factors worth keeping in mind:

  • Age (65 and over)
  • Participating in jumping sports
  • Overweight

The problem is that ankle injuries can happen to anyone, which is why this is an issue affecting even those outside of these risk groups.

What Are the Causes of Ankle Pain?

Ankle pain usually happens for one of two reasons – injury, overuse, or disease. Still, there are many different types of injuries to consider. For instance, some injuries that cause pain in your ankle are:

  • Fractures
  • Ligament sprains/tears
  • Tendon sprains/tears
  • Dislocations

If it’s the overuse that’s the biggest issue, chances are that you’re dealing with:

  • Tendonitis
  • Fasciitis
  • Bursitis

A good thing about diagnosing ankle pain caused by an injury is the fact that the injury itself is a traumatic event that you’re likely to notice and report to your doctor. However, certain conditions may result in sudden ankle pain without injury. The diseases that will also, likely, lead to an ankle pain injury are:

  • Arthritis
  • Flatfoot
  • Gout
  • Infection

While the majority of these injuries and conditions give similar symptoms, their treatment is vastly different. A sprained ankle treatment is much different from treating an infection.

Symptoms that Accompany Ankle Pain

While ankle pain when walking is a clear indicator that something’s wrong, it’s just one of the symptoms and it will, most likely, be accompanied by others. For instance:

  • Instability
  • Popping sound
  • Limited range of motion
  • Swelling and bruising

If any or all of these follow a bad step, chances are that you’ve sprained your ankle. While foot and ankle conditioning can reduce the risk, there’s no way to be 100% safe. Does this mean that conditioning your ankles is useless? Of course not. Every bit helps and other than just strengthening these muscles, you’ll also increase your balancing (among other things).

Diagnosing the cause of Ankle Pain 

They can examine your foot and ankle for the pin-point location of the pain, as well as swelling and bruising, and even do some scans on your ankle to make sure that there are no fractures. For this, doctors rely on image studies such as x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans to better evaluate your bones, joints, and soft tissues for the culprit

At the same time, doctors will also have to rely on your own account of the symptoms. For instance, one of the things they will be interested in is whether you feel the pain in your ankle when running or even when you’re just walking. In a case of an infection, a biopsy may be needed. Here, a sample of your tissue will be taken and sent to a lab to be sampled for bacteria.

Treatments for Ankle Pain 

As we’ve already mentioned, the treatment depends on the source of your pain. In the most likely scenario of an ankle sprain, your first course of action would be to apply the RICE technique (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and seek medical help. The situation may be more serious than you expected.

Complete rest is always advised in these situations, however, if this is not an option, you need to consider the use of an ankle brace for walking and supporting footwear. Other than this, some over-the-counter pain medications (nonsteroidal) can be quite effective.

If your situation is more serious, your doctor may suggest a more intense course of treatment. For instance, if there’s a need to stabilize your ankle, they may suggest that you go for a splint. If your ankle is filled with fluid, your healthcare provider may remove the excess fluid with a needle - joint aspiration.

In the most extreme of cases, you may also need steroid injections or even surgery. This will usually be followed by a customized physical therapy program.

Ankle Pain Prevention

Prevention depends on the condition in question, however, strengthening the surrounding muscles is one of the best things you can do. Another method of ankle sprain prevention is to wear proper footwear and mind your itinerary. Mindfulness is also a key component, seeing as how you need to watch out for cracks in the pavement, rocks, and uneven terrain even when you don’t expect to encounter them. All of this can help prevent ankle pain when walking but the truth is that there’s really no guarantee.

Wrap Up

Ankle pain when walking could also be an early symptom of a more serious condition, which is why it deserves some looking into, as soon as possible. While in some cases, RICE will be enough, you should never take this matter lightly. Go to a doctor and have your ankle checked. In a scenario where you need steroids, joint aspiration, or surgery, the sooner you know the better.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so as soon as you experience ankle pain, you should visit our ankle doctors in NJ just in case.

This article was reviewed and approved by an orthopedic surgeon as we place a high premium on accuracy for our patients and potential patients.