People often think of ankle pain as being synonymous with a sprained ankle. But a sprain can happen suddenly when you take a funny step or twist your ankle joint. What if your ankle pain doesn't seem to have had a defined starting point and just bothers you, day after day? This pain is more likely to be caused by one of the following conditions, all of which should be treated by a podiatrist or foot and ankle specialist.
Many of the joints in your body, including your ankles, are cushioned by a little, fluid-filled sack called a bursa. Over time, your ankle bursa may become irritated if you walk or run a lot, especially on uneven surfaces and hills. Wearing shoes that don't fit and suddenly doing a lot of jumping can also irritate your bursa. You may then develop a chronic condition called bursitis, which causes your bursa to become inflamed and sore.
Usually, pain due to ankle bursitis causes swelling at the top of your heel. The pain is usually worst when you put pressure on your toes or forefoot.
Most cases of bursitis can be treated with ice, rest, and an ankle brace, worn over a period of a few weeks. More serious cases may require cortisone injections to bring down the inflammation and speed healing.
Think back over the months before you noticed your ankle was starting to hurt. Did you first experience any pain in your big toes? If so, you might be suffering from gout, a condition in which uric acid crystallizes in the joints. It usually starts in the big toe and then moves into the ankle, and if it's not treated at this point, it will move into your knees and other joints.
Gout can often be managed with a specialized diet to reduce the amount of uric acid you take in. However, a podiatrist will often also recommend some orthotics for your shoes and a foot wrap to wear at night. They may give you pain relievers to take when the pain flares up.
The peroneal tendon runs along the outside edge of your ankle. Sometimes, this tendon becomes inflamed and painful over time. This is a really common condition in runners and hikers — especially those whose ankles tend to turn inward as they walk or run. Peroneal tendonitis tends to be worse when you first get up in the morning, and the pain becomes less severe as the day goes on and your joints warm up.
For peroneal tendonitis, your podiatrist will likely recommend orthotics to adjust the walk you walk and keep your ankles from collapsing inward. You will also need to rest and ice your foot for a few weeks and take some time away from hard exercise.
If you're dealing with chronic ankle pain, don't keep suffering! See a podiatrist to figure out what's causing the pain so you can treat it.