Understanding Ankle Pain

Our ankles play a role in every activity in which we partake, making ankle pain particularly annoying. That walk to the coffee shop, the hike with your furry friend last weekend, that ultimate frisbee game with your friends. It’s no wonder that with all that activity, we’re bound to experience some ankle pain at some point.

Ankles are our biggest support and bare more force than we often realize. Our ankles take on a force of over two times our body weight according to orthopedic experts, and that’s just while walking. (HonorHealth) It’s important to take care of them, and to consult an expert when experiencing ankle pain. Let’s take a look at the ankle and the essential role it plays.

Understanding the Ankle

The ankle, the knobby intersection of the bones of our foot and lower leg, consists of two joints; the ankle and subtalar joints. These joints act as a cohesive pair made up of multiple bones surrounded by the ligaments, tendons, and muscles necessary for their basic functioning. 

The ankle joint is responsible for the up and down movement of our foot, while the subtalar joint handles the side-to-side movements. Those movements are made possible by the muscles and tendons that surround the ankle, and all the bones are stabilized by ligaments that hold them together.

The various structures that make up the ankle work quite well together in enabling us to perform the many activities of our day-to-day lives. Still, they can be damaged amidst all their frequent use. Let’s talk about some of the causes of that damage and how it can lead to ankle pain.

Understanding the Causes of Ankle Pain

Ankle pain can be caused by a variety of reasons that vary in severity. Notoriously wobbly, injuries to the ankle account for 20 percent of all sports-related injuries, coming in at over 2 million injuries a year. (AAFP) An impressive frequency, here’s a look at some of the most frequent causes of ankle pain.

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are similar injuries to different body parts. A sprain is an injury to a ligament, which attaches bone to bone, and a strain is an injury to a muscle or a tendon, which attaches muscle to bone. The ankle is the most common location for these injuries, which can occur with increased activity, typically from running, jumping, landing, or pivoting incorrectly.

Bone Fractures

A bone fracture in the ankle is when any of its various bones break. Fractures can occur from a twisting injury or from direct trauma such as being kicked or having something heavy land on top of it. These breaks in the ankle range from a small crack in the bone, known as a hairline fracture, to compound fractures which are when broken bones pierce through the skin.


Arthritis, which can come in many different forms, is a term for a group of diseases that lead to inflammation in and around a joint. Over time the cartilage in the joint can wear down, causing the bones that meet in the joint to rub together, which leads to joint pain. 

The most common form of arthritis is Osteoarthritis, oftentimes referred to as “degenerative joint disease”. This form of arthritis affects the joint slowly over many years. Other forms of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, a more severe arthritis caused by an autoimmune disease, and gout, a type of arthritis caused by a buildup of acid in your joints due to diet.

Understanding the Treatments of Ankle Pain

Treatments for ankle pain differ depending on the nature and severity of the cause. Orthopedic surgeons will explore non-surgery treatments before electing for surgery. Common forms of non-surgery treatment include:

  • RICE — rest, ice, compression, elevation — a treatment easily done at home 
  • Physical Therapy, which can help to loosen and strengthen stiff and damaged joints. 
  • Immobilization of the joint, usually with a cast or a splint, is a common treatment for minor fractures and can help with sprains and strains as well.

For ankle pain due to more extreme causes, your doctor may require x-rays or other forms of imaging. More severe fractures and arthritic degradation may require surgery, while some arthritis can be treated with medication or steroids. For all forms of ankle pain, it’s best to consult an expert physician to find out the best form of treatment.

OCR Understands Ankle Pain

At OCR we understand how crucial healthy, properly functioning ankles are, and how burdensome ankle pain can be. Our team of doctors has the knowledge that comes from years of experience focused on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of the full spectrum of ankle injuries and disorders. 

Let our team of experts assess your ankle pain before it becomes a more severe problem. Schedule an appointment with one of our specialists at one of our 6 medical campuses in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley,  Longmont, Lafayette, and Westminster. Learn more about our treatments for ankle pain and how Orthopaedic & Spine Center can get you moving like you used to. OCR, Specialists in the Medicine of Motion.

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