Ankle Swelling And Pain Treatment

What is it?

Ankle pain and swelling refers to discomfort around the joint at the bottom of the shin bone where it joins the foot. This condition can result in deformity of the ankle, or swelling around the inside or outside, making movement of the ankle – whether moving the foot up and down or side to side – very uncomfortable or stiff.

Why does it occur?

Ankle pain and swelling can occur for a number of underlying reasons: arthritis within the ankle joint or the middle hindfoot joints can cause generalised pain; injuries or gradual loss of function of the tendons and ligaments can have the same effect. Either can come on gradually, or be as a result of an acute injury.

What are the symptoms?

Discomfort around the ankle joint, particularly when walking or running, can be a problem, as can swelling. Bearing weight on the ankle, if the issue is not addressed, will become increasingly uncomfortable and the range of movement in the ankle will gradually reduce. If the underlying conditions progress and are not treated, this can result in a permanently deformed ankle. 

How is it diagnosed?

Your consultant will give you a careful examination to determine the potential underlying causes of your ankle pain and swelling.  Sometimes x-rays, ultrasounds or MRI scans may be required to pinpoint the underlying cause of your pain or swelling, be it a  degenerative condition, or a  ligament or tendon injury. 

How is it treated?

Non-surgical treatment

The use of supportive braces or boots, to stabilise the ankle, and adaptive footwear with cushioning or rocker bottoms to reduce stress on the ankle, are often effective. Oral painkillers and anti-inflammatories are recommended, as are  injections into the ankle or the smaller joints around the mid and hindfoot.

Surgical treatment

The type of surgery recommended will depend on the reason for the ankle pain and swelling. Treatment for ankle arthritis, for example, can involve fusion of the joints or an ankle replacement.  Similarly, if the underlying cause is arthritis of the mid and hindfoot, fusion surgery is an option. If the pain is as a result of ligament or tendon dysfunction, then reconstructive surgery to the ankle, ligaments and tendons will improve the symptoms significantly.

Treatment options

Bostrom and lateral ligament repair

Ankle arthroscopy

ankle surgery

Ankle fusion surgery

Brace and boot treatment

The One Orthopaedics team specialists

Julie Kohls

Consultant Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon FRCS (Tr & Orth)