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Ankle pain


Definition

Bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles make up the ankle. It's strong enough to bear body weight and move the body. The ankle can be painful when injured or affected by illness.

The pain might be on the inside or outside of the ankle. Or it could be in back along the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon joins the muscles in the lower leg to the heel bone.

Mild ankle pain often responds well to home treatments. But it can take time for the pain to ease. See a health care provider for severe ankle pain, especially if it comes after an injury.

Causes

Injury to any of the ankle bones, ligaments or tendons, and several types of arthritis can cause ankle pain. Common causes of ankle pain include:

  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Achilles tendon rupture
  • Avulsion fracture
  • Broken ankle
  • Broken foot
  • Gout
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis)
  • Osteochondritis dissecans
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Pseudogout
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sprained ankle
  • Stress fractures (Tiny cracks in a bone.)
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome

When to see a doctor

Any ankle injury can be quite painful, at least at first. It's usually safe to try home remedies for a while.

Seek immediate medical attention if you:

  • Have severe pain or swelling, especially after an injury.
  • Pain that gets worse.
  • Have an open wound or the ankle looks deformed.
  • Have signs of infection, such as redness, warmth and tenderness in the affected area or a fever greater than 100 F (37.8 C).
  • Cannot put weight on the foot.

Schedule an office visit if you:

  • Have persistent swelling that doesn't improve after 2 to 5 days of home treatment.
  • Have persistent pain that doesn't improve after several weeks.

Self-care

For many ankle injuries, self-care measures ease the pain. Examples include:

  • Rest. Keep weight off the ankle as much as possible. Take a break from regular activities.
  • Ice. Place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas on the ankle for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day.
  • Compression. Wrap the area with a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation. Raise the foot above the level of the heart to help reduce swelling.
  • Pain medicines you can get without a prescription. Medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can ease pain and aid healing.

Even with the best of care, the ankle might swell, be stiff or hurt for several weeks. This is most likely to be first thing in the morning or after activity.

Content Last Updated: 04-Apr-2023
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