Ankle pain, such as a strain or sprain after a fall or misstep, can greatly interfere with everyday activities because the ankle plays an important role in supporting the rest of the body. A variety of healthcare professionals can help you relieve these pains and restore the normal functioning of your ankle and foot.
Why do you get pain in your ankle?
Ankle pain can be caused by a sudden injury such as a blow, a fall, or an awkward move. It can also occur over time due to repetitive movements, for example.
Several internal structures can cause pain, such as tendons, ligaments, nerves and bones. Possible diagnoses include sprain, fracture, tendinitis, tendinosis, osteoarthritis, etc.
A physiotherapy consultation will help you fully understand which structures are affected and the means available to promote their healing.
What are the main causes of ankle pain?
How to recognize a sprained ankle
A sprain, commonly known as a "strain," is an injury to one or more ligaments, the structures that connect bones together and provide joint stability.
Your ankle is particularly vulnerable to sprains since it must adapt quickly to our movements and to changes in the ground under our feet. The expression "turning an ankle" appropriately describes the main mechanism of this injury, which often occurs when your foot turns inwards and the weight of your body forces the joint into a movement that exceeds its normal range.
Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the sprain.
- If the ligament has been stretched you may notice some slight swelling, called edema, around the joint.
- If the ligament has been it is common to observe a hematoma (a bruise) as well as a greater swelling of the ankle
In addition to ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves can also be affected and painful.
Can you walk with a sprain? Generally yes, by remaining attentive to pain signals. As soon as the pain increases, it is a sign that you need to take a break. If the pain is very strong when you put weight on the injured foot, using crutches is recommended and you should consult a doctor to check that there is no fracture.
What are the symptoms of a broken ankle?
The main symptoms of a fracture are pain, swelling, hematoma (bruising), decreased movement in the ankle and loss of strength. Sometimes, deformity at the fracture site can be observed, but not always. The pain is usually very strong when you put weight on the foot on the injured side. Using crutches is recommended and you should consult a doctor.
Contrary to popular belief, getting a cast and waiting to recover after a fracture is not all that can be done. Although a cast is very important for healing (or an orthopedic walking boot, depending on the doctor’s recommendation), immobilizing the ankle causes stiffness and loss of muscle strength. Physiotherapy treatments will help you regain mobility, strength and flexibility and thus accelerate your recovery.
How to recognize ankle tendinitis
Tendinitis is an inflammation of a tendon, the structure that connects muscle to bone, after a shock or a large and unusual muscle contraction. It is often confused with the more common tendinosis, which is chronic tendon irritation often caused by repetitive movements.
The Achilles tendon, sometimes mistakenly called Achilles heel, is the tendon most often affected in the ankle, because it is subjected to great tensile forces to support the weight of the body. It forms the attachment of the calf muscles that play an important role in walking, running and jumping.
The main symptom of tendinitis or tendinosis of the Achilles tendon is the presence of pain near the heel, which often occurs after sustained effort. Small local swelling, redness, and tenderness are other possible symptoms. Simple gestures like standing on your tiptoes or driving a car can be uncomfortable.
How do you treat ankle pain?
Expert advice to help you treat a sprain
To help your ankle heal in the first days after a sprain, follow these 3 tips:
- Balance your activities
Stop doing activities that cause pain, but keep moving the ankle in painless motions to prevent stiffness as much as possible. Movement is the best way to promote healing.
- Apply compression
Wrap an elastic bandage over the swollen area and hold it in place as often as possible. Be careful not to cut off your blood circulation. If you notice loss of sensation, discolouration or numbness, this is a sign that the bandage is too tight.
- Elevate the affected limb
Elevate the affected ankle to a position above the heart as often as possible to limit swelling (edema).
Which professional should you consult?
Different professionals often work together to maximize results. If in doubt, we recommend that you first consult a physiotherapist so that they can assess your needs and the treatments required for the specific condition of your ankle. If necessary, they will recommend other professional(s) to consult to optimize your rehabilitation.
Why consult a physiotherapist?
After a thorough assessment of your ankle, a physiotherapist will explain which structures are affected and offer you a treatment plan based on your goals. Different options can be considered such as exercises specific to your condition, joint mobilizations and muscle relaxation techniques. Your physiotherapist will also give you advice on how to relieve pain and get back to your activities.
Why consult an occupational therapist?
An occupational therapist will assess the impact of your ankle’s condition on your usual abilities such as working, doing household chores and hobbies. Their treatments, which can take the form of strengthening exercises or simulating work tasks, for example, will help you maximize your autonomy at each stage of your recovery.
Why consult an osteopath?
Using different manual techniques, an osteopath will treat mobility restrictions that can affect all the structures of your body (bones, muscles, ligaments, viscera, etc.) related to your ankle. Improved mobility enables the body to recover better and reduces pain.
Why consult a massage therapist?
A massage therapist will work primarily to release tension in the superficial and deep tissues that affect your ankle to help you reduce pain and move more freely. Their treatments will also help increase blood circulation to promote better recovery.
Why consult an acupuncturist?
Through various techniques and using therapeutic tools such as needles and suction cups, an acupuncturist will act to reduce pain, stress, muscle tension and inflammation that can occur following an ankle injury.
Why consult a kinesiologist?
A kinesiologist will teach you how to do adapted exercises based on their evaluation of your ability to move your ankle and your physical condition, so that you can resume your activities.