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5 ways to treat chronic ankle pain

chronic ankle pain
3 minutes, 33 seconds

When your ankle pain makes it difficult to comfortably stand or walk, it can make you want to do nothing but lie around to stay off your feet. It’s even more frustrating when that pain is persistent for weeks or months at a time. 

Chronic ankle pain can interfere with your quality of life because it can be hard to handle your daily physical tasks, such as walking up the stairs to your job or completing the chores around your house. But the good news is that there are a variety of treatment options that can help you get back on your feet, from self-care to physical therapy.

We’ll talk about the basics of chronic ankle pain and the different types of treatment options you can explore, including physical therapy.

The basics of chronic ankle pain

Most people experience ankle pain at some point in their life, but pain is classified as a chronic condition when it persists for three or more months. Chronic ankle pain can occur alongside other symptoms, including stiffness and swelling.

The most common causes of chronic ankle pain include:

  • Sprained ankle, especially incorrect healing from the sprain.
  • Gradual wear and tear.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.
  • Tendinitis.
  • Acute or stress fractures.

Chronic ankle pain is especially common in people who experience ankle instability following a sprain that hasn’t properly healed. Research from multiple studies shows that up to 79% of study participants with chronic ankle instability also have ankle pain. 

5 ways to treat chronic ankle pain

Even though chronic ankle pain can feel unrelenting without an end in sight, there are plenty of treatment options to help alleviate the ache. While a few of the treatments are self-care options that can be done at home, others will require the assistance of a medical professional, such as a physician or physical therapist.

Here are five ways to help treat ankle pain:

  1. Medication — If you’re experiencing ankle pain, anti-inflammatory medications can provide temporary relief, especially if the pain is coupled with swelling. Over-the-counter options include ibuprofen and naproxen. 
  2. Ice — Putting an ice pack on a painful area is a tried-and-true way to alleviate the ache. The ice reduces the swelling and inflammation by decreasing the blood flow to the ankle. Apply the ice for 20 minutes at a time.
  3. Ankle brace — Since it’s not realistic to stay completely off your ankle, there are assistive devices that can help reduce pain and increase mobility. An ankle brace provides additional support to the joint and limits motion to reduce the risk of further injury.
  4. Injection — Your health care provider might recommend a steroid injection of corticosteroid into your ankle to help alleviate the inflammation. Many people report feeling immediate relief following the injection.
  5. Physical therapy — One of the most effective treatment options for any type of chronic pain is through physical therapy. Exercises and manual therapy can help alleviate pain and restore the joint’s mobility.

How physical therapy can treat chronic ankle pain

Physical therapy is an effective treatment for ankle pain because it helps to alleviate the ache while increasing the ankle’s strength, range of motion and function to improve its mobility. Exercises and manual therapy are the two most common courses of action for ankle pain, but your physical therapist will design a personalized treatment plan based on the cause and severity of your pain.

Manual therapy for ankle pain involves your physical therapist using their hands to manipulate the affected tissue to release muscle tension. They will likely perform joint mobilization, which means moving the joint around to find the restrictive tissue. Then they can use their hands to stretch the muscles and loosen the soft tissue to increase its range of motion.

Your physical therapist will walk you through targeted exercises that will increase the strength and flexibility of the ankle’s muscles to improve stability and range of motion. By improving the ankle’s overall quality, you can decrease the risk of future injury.

Alliance PTP can connect you with the physical therapy practice you need for chronic ankle pain treatment

Ready to try in-person physical therapy for your ankle pain? You’ll find plenty of options to choose from among the Alliance Physical Therapy Partners practices nationwide. 

Our team can quickly put you in touch with one of our partner clinics near you, and their friendly and knowledgeable local staff can help you find care for your chronic ankle pain.

Don’t have the time to see a physical therapist in person? Not a problem. Alliance PTP and its partners can also see you virtually in nearly every state. 

Still have questions about what we and our partners can do for you? We’re ready to answer them and help you find the physical therapy you need.

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