4 Underlying Causes Of Chronic Ankle Pain

Ankle pain is expected after an acute injury, but in some cases, the pain can go on indefinitely after an injury or seem to appear without an obvious reason. Chronic ankle pain can have many underlying causes, some of which can be managed effectively with at-home care.

Joint Instability

You may have suffered an ankle injury that has created instability in your ankle. Changing the shoes you wear can help improve stability in your ankle, if it is the underlying cause, and reduce pain. Boots and high-top sneakers are ideal for supporting your ankles. However, these types of shoes are not appropriate for all occasions.

Try wrapping your ankle in an elastic bandage if you wear shoes without adequate ankle support. Wrap your ankle snugly, but without too much compression. If you experience swelling in your ankle due to inflammation or edema a tight bandage can make the problem worse and decrease circulation. You may need to adjust your bandage throughout the day, because as you walk around, it is common to experience some expansion in your ankle.

Excess Weight

Carrying around extra weight can place unnecessary stress on your weight bearing joints. Sometimes the impact of extra pounds does not become noticeable until you are older, and you may find that even a few extra pounds affects your body differently. If you have excess weight, consider dropping a few pounds to determine if this makes a difference in how your ankle feels.

When you experience ankle pain, it can be more difficult to exercise appropriately without increasing pain. Swimming is the lowest impact exercise you can perform to burn extra calories, while helping to strengthen supporting structures around your joints. Another form of exercise that is often helpful is using the stationary bike, without resistance.


Osteoarthritis can occur for many reasons, and excess weight or previous injuries can be contributing factors. For many people, developing osteoarthritis in their ankle may occur as they grow older. Since osteoarthritis is considered a degenerative form of arthritis, it often occurs from the normal wear and tear of daily activities, over many decades. If you have osteoarthritis in your ankle, you will probably experience episodes of inflammation and stiffness, in addition to pain. Changes in the weather may affect your ankle, such as colder temperatures and lower barometric pressure.

X-rays are a useful tool in diagnosing osteoarthritis, because they can show narrowing of the joint space and give you an indication of the severity of cartilage degeneration. If the pain does not substantially limit your activities, you may find that occasional use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications is adequate. Significant pain can warrant the use of injectable steroid medications, which can provide relief for months with each injection. The long-term use of COX-2 inhibitors for pain and inflammation management is another option.

Chronic Illness

If you experience chronic ankle pain, especially when you have other vague symptoms, do not be afraid to ask your doctor for in-depth blood work. Some chronic diseases can manifest as joint pain. For example, it is not uncommon for people thyroid problems to have joint pain, changes in their appetite and fatigue. Other chronic illnesses that can start with pain in a joint are autoimmune diseases or even some forms of cancer.

Some blood tests that can be a useful diagnostic tool are a complete blood count (CBC), thyroid function and C-reactive protein (CRP). Both the CBC and CRP tests can show abnormal values if there is a systemic inflammatory process at work. If all tests are normal, this may be a good indication that your ankle pain is not a result of a widespread issue, but is a musculoskeletal problem, specifically in your ankle.

Fortunately, most cases of ankle pain are not a widespread issue, and can be managed or eliminated on your own. If you experience frequent ankle pain that is not alleviated with at-home care, speak with your doctor to determine your next step.