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What Can Cause Ankle Pain When Walking?

Ankle is a hinged joint and connects your foot with your leg. There are tendons, ligaments, and muscles to keep your ankle in place. Your ankle ensures that your foot can move in two main directions – towards the body and away from the body. You may develop ankle pain while walking if there is an issue with the joint itself or the ligaments, tendons, and muscles surrounding the joint. It is common for people to experience ankle pain when they walk on an inclined surface. 

Causes and Treatment for Ankle Pain When Walking

1. Ankle Sprain

Any excessive stretching of ligaments in the ankle can cause a sprain. You usually develop this problem when you accidently twist your foot outward or inward. Your ligaments may also get twisted in an abnormal way when you step on an irregular surface. Similarly, not selecting your shoes carefully while exercising or running may also lead to ankle sprain.

Treatment

You usually feel better after R.I.C.E. therapy:

  • R: You should rest your ankle as much as possible and use crutches for support.
  • I: You should ice the ankle for about half an hour several times a day in the first couple of days.
  • C: You should compress the ankle by wrapping it lightly using an elastic ankle brace.
  • E: You should elevate the ankle and keep it above the level of your heart for 48 hours after injury.

Moreover, you may find some relief after taking OTC pain medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin.

2. Gout

You develop this condition when you have excess uric acid in your body. Uric acid accumulates in the form of crystals and causes a painful inflammation of the ankle and the foot.

Treatment

  • Your doctor may give you medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and colchicines.
  • You may have to take certain medications to lower your risk of developing gout-related complications if you experience several gout attacks within a year.
  • You may have to take medications to block uric acid production. Your doctor may also give you medications that promote uric acid removal from the body.

3. Pseudogout

Characterized by sudden and intense swelling in your joints, pseudogout may as well be the reason why you experience ankle pain when walking. The condition leads to the formation of crystals in the joint lining, which in turn causes severe pain and inflammation.

Treatment

Pseudogout has no cure, but your doctor may give you certain medications to help relieve pain. They usually recommend OTC pain relievers in the beginning, but you may also have to take NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and colchicines to relieve pain and inflammation. Some people feel better after joint drainage.

4. Osteoarthritis

This common joint disorder affects the cushioning between the bones. In the absence of cartilage, bones start grinding with each other, causing pain and inflammation. Your ligaments and muscles become weak over time and you will experience serious pain in the joint.

Treatment

It is not possible to cure osteoarthritis, but your doctor can certainly recommend ways to manage your symptoms more efficiently.

  • The combination of physical therapies, medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery usually helps relieve pain and improve joint mobility as well.
  • You may also have to work with a dietician to change your diet and lower your body weight to treat osteoarthritis.

5. Rheumatoid Arthritis

This autoimmune disease causes chronic inflammation of the joints and the tissues around the affected joints. It means your immune system starts attacking healthy tissues in the body.

Treatment

No cure is available for this autoimmune disorder, but research shows that the use of medications called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis may produce good results.

  • You may also have to work with an occupational or physical therapist to learn certain exercises that add strength and flexibility to your joints.
  • You may require surgery when medications fail to produce desired results or you have sustained joint damage.

6. Septic Arthritis

You develop this disorder when there is a bacterial infection in your body, and the bacteria may travel through the bloodstream to affect a joint. Sometimes, your joint becomes infected due to surgical procedures or traumatic penetration, which in turn leads to the development of septic arthritis. You may also have intense joint pain with joint swelling and low-grade fever.

Treatment

Joint drainage is usually the treatment option in this case. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotic drugs to clear the infection. Your doctor may withdraw some infected fluid from the affected joint to help select the best antibiotic medication for your condition. You may receive antibiotics intravenously at first, but you can then switch to oral antibiotics.

7. Impingement Syndrome

Ankle impingement syndrome can cause ankle pain when walking. You develop this problem because of the compression of nerves or tendons around your ankle. The problem is more common in high jumpers, runners, volleyball players, and dancers because of the repetitive extension and flexion of your ankle and foot. You may also notice joint stiffness, swelling, and numbness in the area.

Treatment

You need to work with a physical therapist to treat your ankle impingement syndrome. He or she helps make your joint functional and make it easier to return to your normal activities. Your treatment may include range of motion exercises, pain management, balance exercises, muscle-strengthening exercises, and functional training.

8. Tendinitis

Irritation and inflammation in your tendons may lead to tendinitis. Repetitive movements of the joint usually irritate the tendons. Your age, over training, and a sudden increase in training intensity put you at an increased risk of developing tendinitis.

Treatment

Your doctor will prescribe medications to help control your pain and reduce inflammation. Taking rest, applying ice, and taking OTC pain relievers also help manage your symptoms.

What You Can Do to Deal with Ankle Pain When Walking

1. Self-Management

  • Give your ankle some rest for a few days and avoid putting weight on the affected joint.
  • Use warm olive oil to massage the affected area.
  • Use crutches to support the ankle, and you can also use a cane while walking.
  • Keep your foot elevated to reduce swelling.
  • Apply ice compression or ACE bandages to help relieve pain.

2. Seek Medical Help

Be sure to talk to your doctor if:

  • You have a family history of arthritis.
  • Your ankle or foot is red or swollen.
  • You have numbness in the foot.
  • You cannot put pressure on the affected leg.
  • Your foot has changed its color.

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