Ankle Pain & Injuries

Ankle pain

The ankle joint is a complex hinge which allows a range of movements. It consists of three bones which are held in place by powerful bands known as ligaments. The talus sits in the foot and slots directly into the two leg bones, the tibia and fibula, which run parallel to each other.

Pain in the ankle can be attributed to a range of issues including arthritis. There are five types which generally affect this joint, they are: ankle arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout and septic arthritis.

Ankle Injuries

Ligament Injuries

This can happen when a foot twists. It can be very painful and will cause significant swelling. Although the injury is normally a straightforward sprain it is possible to chip the cartilage and damage the tendons around the ankle.

What to do – Typically, treatment will involve rest, the application of ice and a bandage. However, if there is no improvement within three or four days you should visit a hospital.

Most sprains heal and don’t cause any lasting damage but in some cases there can be some instability. Physiotherapy can significantly improve this and ligament reconstruction is also an option in some cases.

Ankle Fractures

Breaks and cracks are commonly referred to as factures. It is sometimes difficult to tell if an ankle is broken or just sprained. If any of the following are present you should visit a hospital:

  • There is significant pain in the bones around the ankle
  • You can’t put any weight on the injured ankle
  • You heard cracking when the injury happened
  • The ankle looks deformed
  • The skin over the ankle is broken
  • The swelling worsens after three to four days

Treatment of Ankle Fractures

Injuries can cause lasting damage and pain. There are a range of treatments available including an ankle arthroscopy, ankle replacement and ankle fusion.

Straightforward fractures are treated by using a plaster cast which is normally left in place for between six to eight weeks. A removable cast or special boot is sometimes used after the initial four weeks so the patient is able to put some weight through the injured ankle.

A surgical procedure is necessary to treat badly fractured ankles to realign and fix the bone. Wires, plates and screws are normally used in an operation known as open reduction and internal fixation.  It is unusual to remove the metalwork unless it causes problems.


It is difficult to predict how long it will take to fully recover as this will depend on the severity of the fracture. In most cases it normally takes around 12 weeks but this can vary as every case is different.

This page is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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