Chronic ankle pain is defined as pain in the foot or ankle region that lasts for an extended amount of time without much or any relief. For a lot of people who experience chronic ankle pain, there are a lot of questions left unanswered: What causes the pain? What symptoms should you be concerned about? And what can be done to treat this pain? Get information on this concerning cause for chronic pain and more below.
Symptoms of Chronic Ankle Pain
The most obvious symptom of chronic ankle pain is, of course, pain in this area of the body. But chronic ankle pain can feel different to each person who experiences it—especially because there are different causes that trigger the pain. Chronic ankle pain can be sharp, dull, achy, or fluctuating. It can sometimes get worse throughout the day. Other times, people who have chronic ankle pain are able to access the proper care they need to alleviate the pain.
There are other side effects to chronic ankle pain as well, such as:
- Difficulty walking
- Foot swelling
- Limited range of motion
- Inability to move ankle
As these symptoms show, chronic ankle pain can take a toll on somebody’s ability to do daily activities. The ankles take on a lot of strain already—add an injury, swelling, or general pain on top of that and the symptoms can get a lot worse. Plus, it’s not just the pain that people need to be concerned about. Chronic ankle pain is sometimes an indication of further damage that is occurring to the area.
Ultimately, pain is the body’s way of indicating that something is not right. So, if you are having chronic ankle pain, it’s best practice to be evaluated by a medical professional to find out the true cause. Without this, getting the right kind of treatment can be much more challenging.
Common Causes Behind Your Chronic Ankle Pain
There are countless reasons why somebody might be feeling chronic ankle pain. To start, ankle injuries are a common cause behind this experience. Injuries are typically thought to be acute, meaning that the symptoms might initially present as more severe, but the pain goes away once the area has healed. However, injuries can have a long-term impact as well.
One study shows that approximately 40 percent of people who have an ankle sprain end up having chronic ankle pain, even after the initial injury has healed. Other research indicates that more than 20 percent of people who have ankle fractures, ankle joint dislocations, and other ankle bone injuries experience chronic ankle pain long after the trauma has occurred.
Experts predict that people with ankle injuries often do not get the right type of treatment quickly enough. They then continue walking, running, or doing other physical movements that exacerbate the symptoms and lead to more damage. This damage is often irreversible and the cause behind a lot of people’s pain.
Of course, there are other reasons as to why somebody might have chronic ankle pain as well that don’t relate to an acute injury. A few different reasons behind ankle pain include:
- Tendonitis—This condition occurs when the tendons in the ankle are overworked, strained, and swollen. This can cause pain and swelling on one or both sides of the ankle. Furthermore, tendonitis can restrict one’s range of motion. As a result, walking, driving, or performing other movements with the ankle could be challenging.
- Arthritis—Pain that is present in the ankle joint specifically could come from arthritis. There are different forms of arthritis that can affect the ankles, but one in particular that results in chronic ankle pain for many patients would be rheumatoid arthritis (RA). People with RA often have persistently painful ankle discomfort that worsens with use or while weight bearing.
- Ankle instability—Having ankle instability that stems from a previous injury, past medical condition, or a lack of strength in the ankle can also cause chronic pain. This is because when the ankle is unstable, it might twist, roll, or move in a way that creates more pain. When there isn’t enough support around the ankle joint, it can then lead to more wear and tear.
Treatment for Chronic Ankle Pain
All of these reasons behind chronic ankle pain show that there’s such a wide range of causes—this is why it can be difficult for people to locate the source of their ankle pain. Consequently, knowing the type of treatment to use to alleviate chronic ankle pain can feel impossible when you aren’t even sure what is causing the pain.
For example, the way you would treat a stretched or torn tendon in the ankle is very different from how you would address pain that stems from arthritis. That said, there are a few different treatment options for chronic ankle pain, depending on the type, duration, and location of the pain. These treatment options can include:
- Wearing an ankle brace
- Using ice
- Doing physical therapy
In more severe cases, especially with ankle fractures or injuries that have to do with the ankle bone, you might need to consult with an orthopedic surgeon to talk about further options. The end goal with chronic ankle pain is to find a way to alleviate the discomfort and increase functionality.
For more support when it comes to chronic ankle pain, join the Pain Resource Community. Here, you can speak with others who have similar experiences. Hear more about what works for them, tips and tricks that you can try, and what to do in all of the ups and downs caused by chronic pain.
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