Ankle pain makes it hard for you to do the sports you love, and it can even make it hard for you to walk or stand. There are many different things that can cause ankle pain in athletic people, and while your coach or teammates may encourage you to push through the pain, ankle conditions need to be properly diagnosed by an ankle doctor and treated before you can get back to your favorite sport. Here are four conditions that may be responsible.
Your Achilles tendon is a long tendon running from your calf to your heel. This tendon is essential for walking, running, and doing other athletic activities. If you push yourself too hard when you work out, your Achilles tendon can swell up, which causes pain and stiffness in the back of your ankle. This is a common problem.
This pain can be very severe, but it will usually go away if you rest and ice your tendon. Some people will also need to see a physical therapist to learn exercises to strengthen their Achilles tendon. Other people will need corticosteroid injections to reduce the swelling, and in severe cases, surgery can be required.
Sinus tarsi syndrome
The tarsal tunnel in your ankle is similar to the carpal tunnel in your wrist; it contains veins, arteries, tendons, and nerves. When you overuse your ankle, you can develop sinus tarsi syndrome, which is the ankle equivalent of carpal tunnel syndrome. Sinus tarsi syndrome can also occur as a consequence of a sprained ankle.
Your ankle will be painful, weak, and tingly, and will feel unstable. This instability will make it hard for you to walk, especially on uneven surfaces like grass. Resting your ankle can help, but you may also need treatments like steroid injections and orthotics. Surgery can be done to treat advanced cases of sinus tarsi syndrome, but this isn't usually necessary.
Chronic ankle instability
Most people with a sprained ankle will recover, but as many as 20% of people injure their ankle again soon after the original sprain, and by doing so, can develop chronic ankle instability. This is caused by overstretched ligaments inside your ankle. Chronic ankle instability makes your ankle give out when you're walking or running, or even when you're just standing still. This instability leads further sprains and injuries, which in turn leads to chronic pain and swelling in your ankle.
To fix this problem, you may need to undergo physical therapy to stabilize your ankle. Your doctor may also tell you to wear an ankle brace to help your ankle heal. If these treatments aren't enough, you may also need to have the ligaments inside your ankle surgically tightened to correct the problem.
Doing endurance sports like running puts a lot of strain on the bones in your ankles, and the force can cause the bones to crack. These cracks are stress fractures, also called hairline fractures. At first, this injury isn't too noticeable, but as you keep running, the pain gets worse. Stress fractures are treated with rest, and sometimes casts or braces. If the stress fracture isn't treated, it can progress into a complete fracture. This can lead to chronic pain and keep you sidelined from your favorite sports.
If your ankles hurt, you could have one of these conditions. Continuing to exercise on your sore ankle can make the pain worse or lead to more serious damage, so don't try to push through the pain. Make an appointment with a podiatrist right away to find out what's causing your pain and to get it treated, and once your podiatrist tells you it's safe, you can start exercising again.