Why You Might Be Experiencing Sudden Ankle Pain Without Injury
Updated February 17, 2023.
The ankle joint is complex in nature due to the various bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles that allow the joint to function optimally. The ankle supports the weight of the body as the heel strikes the ground while translating the forward movement of the tibia over the foot. Should ankle pain arise suddenly, there may be an underlying cause as to why you are experiencing these symptoms suddenly. Read further to learn more about why this may be the case and what you can do about it.
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Possible Causes of Ankle Pain Without Injury
You might experience pain in your ankle while running or even while walking. It is possible for ankle pain to arise suddenly without memory or knowledge of an injury occurring to the ankle complex and associated structures. Improper footwear and repetitive overuse injuries to the ankle complex contribute to pain arising in the area, alongside other underlying health conditions listed below.
The cartilage lining the bones making up the ankle complex breaks down through strain and use of the ankle. This is usually associated with a person’s age. As the cartilage wears away, pain and disability can occur.
This is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack cartilage lining the joints of the body. This is common in joints such as the ankle, knee, hips, and smaller finger joints.
Achilles tendonitis is often felt as pain towards the back of the ankle or heel. This condition is associated with microtears of the tendon eventually leading to pain. Rest, ice, and self-massage can effectively help you manage pain associated with Achilles tendonitis.
The fallen arches as seen in people who have flat feet can be a possible cause of ankle pain. Normally, as the foot strikes the ground, the arch serves as a shock absorber for the rest of the body. When the arches have fallen, this shock absorbing characteristic is reduced, and the ankle takes an increased shock as the foot strikes the ground. This can lead to an increased risk of developing ankle pain or injury.
Lupus is an inflammatory autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, causing painful joints alongside a host of other symptoms. The other symptoms include fatigue, skin rashes, and fever.
At-Home Treatments for Ankle Pain Without an Injury
Resting the ankle can reduce some of the daily strain and may relieve some of the symptoms. You can apply ice to the ankle to relieve inflammation and pain, while elevating the it to reduce swelling.
You can do ankle mobility exercises to improve the range of the ankle joint, while maintaining the strength of the muscles supporting the joint. Ankle mobility exercises include:
- Start by sitting with your feet facing forward and flat on the floor. Raise your forefoot off the floor and hold for 5 seconds. Rise onto your toes and hold for 5 seconds. You can do both legs at the same time or one at a time. Repeat 10 times per leg.
- Sitting with your legs outstretched in front of you, point your toes as far as possible without causing pain. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Repeat with both legs. You can make circular movements with your ankle or even trace letters in the air with the toes to further increase your ankle mobility.
- Heel raises can be used to strengthen the calf and foot muscles. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Go up onto your forefoot and toes while raising the heels off the ground. Once on your forefoot, lower down slowly onto your whole foot again. You can complete this exercise 10–15 times on both feet at the same time.
Medication can be used to manage conditions that can contribute to the development of ankle pain without injury. Pain and inflammation can also be managed effectively using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in a safe manner.
You can also make use of orthotics such as arch supports to provide a stable and comfortable surface for your feet. Orthotics have shock-absorbing qualities and can help reduce overpronation as seen with flat feet. Your feet will not get tired as quickly while being fully supported.
When to Seek Professional Help for Sudden Ankle Pain
It is advised to seek medical help should any adverse symptoms show up in the ankle that do not clear up within a day or two. In certain instances, assistance from a medical professional could be the safest way to go about managing this type of condition safely.
Seek medical help if:
- Adverse pain arises in the ankle suddenly
- Adverse swelling and inflammation arises in the ankle
- You are unable to walk or bear weight on that ankle
- You have a stiff ankle or stiffness in multiple joints
- There is excessive swelling around the ankle