Chronic Lateral Ankle Pain
Chronic lateral ankle pain is recurring or chronic pain on the outside part of the ankle that often develops after an injury such as a sprained ankle.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Ankle instability.
- Difficulty walking on uneven ground or in high heels.
- Pain, sometimes intense, on the outer side of the ankle.
- Repeated ankle sprains.
Although ankle sprains are the most common cause of chronic lateral ankle pain, other causes may include:
- A fracture in one of the bones that make up the ankle joint.
- Arthritis of the ankle joint.
- Inflammation of the joint lining.
- Injury to the nerves that pass through the ankle. In this case, the nerves become stretched, torn, injured by a direct blow, or pinched under pressure.
- Scar tissue in the ankle after a sprain. The scar tissue takes up space in the joint, putting pressure on the ligaments.
- Torn or inflamed tendon.
Treatments for chronic lateral ankle pain include:
- Over the counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medications.
- Physical therapy, including tilt-board exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles, restoring range of motion, and increasing your perception of joint position.
- Ankle braces or other supports.
- Steroid medication.
- Immobilization to allow the bone to heal (in cases of fractures).
Osteochondritis is a lesion that usually causes pain and stiffness of the ankle joint and affects all age groups. Osteochondritis is caused by a twisting-type injury to the ankle. Symptoms include swelling and ankle pain.
Immobilization of the foot and ankle for a period of time usually resolves the problem. In more severe cases, however, surgery may be prescribed. During the surgery, loose fragments of cartilage and bone are removed from the ankle joint and, in some cases, small drill holes are made in the defect to stimulate new blood vessels and help form scar tissue that will fill the defect.
Ankle sprains are caused by an unnatural twisting or force on the ankle bones of the foot, which may result in excessive stretching or tearing of one or more ligaments on the outside of the ankle. The severity of the sprain can impact the degree of damage as well as the type and duration of treatment. If not properly treated, ankle sprains may develop into long-term problems.
Primary symptoms of ankle sprains are pain following a twist or injury, swelling, and bruising.
Treatment includes resting and elevating the ankle and applying ice to reduce swelling. Compressive bandages also may be used to immobilize and support the injury during healing. Serious ankle sprains, particularly among competitive athletes, may require surgery to repair and tighten the damaged ligaments.
To prevent ankle sprains, try to maintain strength, balance, and flexibility in the foot and ankle through exercising, stretching, and wearing well-fitted shoes.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, doctors have noticed an increase in the number and severity of broken ankles since the 1970s, due, in part, to the Baby Boomer generation being active throughout every stage of their lives.
The ankle has two joints, one on top of the other, and three bones. A broken ankle can involve one or more of the bones, as well as injury to the surrounding connecting tissues or ligaments.
There are a wide variety of causes for broken ankles, most commonly a fall, an automobile accident, or sports-related trauma. Because a severe sprain can often mask the symptoms of a broken ankle, every ankle injury should be examined by a physician.
Symptoms of a broken ankle include:
- Immediate and severe pain.
- Inability to put any weight on the injured foot.
- Tenderness to the touch.
- Deformity, particularly if there is a dislocation or a fracture.
The treatment for a broken ankle usually involves a leg cast or brace if the fracture is stable. If the ligaments are also torn, or if the fracture created a loose fragment of bone that could irritate the joint, surgery may be required to secure the bones in place so they will heal properly.
As with many foot and ankle conditions when surgery is considered, arthroscopic surgery on the foot and ankle may be used as a diagnostic or treatment procedure, or both. A small instrument, called an arthroscope, penetrates the skin through small incisions.Tiny cameras can be inserted through the arthroscope, allowing the surgeon to accurately see the area and/or damage. Other small instruments can also be inserted through the arthroscope to make surgical corrections.
Because arthroscopy is less-invasive and traumatic than traditional surgery, it reduces the risk of infection and swelling, and allows for significantly speedier healing and recovery. Most arthroscopic surgeries of the foot and ankle are performed on a same-day, outpatient basis using a local anesthetic.