Your ankle — the joint where your foot and leg meet — is an intricate network of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Strong enough to bear your body weight, your ankle joint can be prone to injury and pain.
You may feel ankle pain on the inside or outside of your ankle or along the Achilles tendon, which connects the muscles in your lower leg to your heel bone. Because ankle pain can sometimes indicate a serious problem, severe ankle pain should be evaluated by your doctor, especially if it follows an injury. Though mild ankle pain often responds well to home treatments, it can take time to go away. See your doctor when any ankle pain doesn't improve in a few weeks.
Injury to any of the bones, ligaments or tendons in the ankle can cause ankle pain. Most ankle pain, however, is the result of a sprain, which occurs when your ankle rolls over your foot, causing a ligament to stretch or tear. Though sprains are often sports-related, they can also occur when you walk on an uneven surface or simply take a misstep.
Common causes of ankle pain include:
When to see a doctor
Pain that occurs immediately after an injury can be intense. Yet every injury isn't a medical emergency, and even painful injuries sometimes can be helped by home care.
Call for immediate medical help or go to the emergency room if you:
See an exposed bone or tendon
Are unable to walk or put weight on your foot
Have severe pain and swelling
You are likely to have an X-ray if:
You aren't able to put weight on your foot
You have pain at the tip of your ankle bone (malleolus)
See your doctor right away if you have signs of infection, such as redness, warmth and tenderness in the affected area or you have a fever over 100 F (37.8 C).
Schedule an office visit if:
Swelling doesn't improve after two or three days of home treatment
Minor pain doesn't go away after several weeks
You have ankle swelling, stiffness and pain that's worse in the morning or after you've been active
Self-care For many ankle injuries, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and home treatments, such as resting and icing your foot (P.R.I.C.E.), may be all you need. For the best results, start these measures within 48 hours after an injury:
Protection. Keep weight off your ankle as much as possible.
Rest. Take a break from your normal activities.
Ice. Place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas on your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day.
Compression. Use a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
Elevation. Elevate your foot to help reduce swelling.