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Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust

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Ankle Pain

What is ankle pain?

The Achilles tendon is the combined tendon of the two calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus.

Despite being the strongest tendon in the body, it can sometimes be overloaded, which causes discomfort and even pain.

Two common conditions affecting the ankle are:

  • Achilles pain
  • Ankle sprain

Dealing with Achillies Pain

The Achilles is painful and swollen because it has been overloaded, i.e. it is too weak to cope with the load it is placed under. Rest is only going to make matters worse as the Achilles will get even weaker if rested.

So, the treatment of Achilles tendinopathy is very simple: the Achilles strengthening exercise, which in most cases will resolve the problem

This exercise may be painful to start with, but must be done once every other day and should be viewed as a three months treatment. Increase repetitions e.g. 3 sets of 11, 12, 13.. as able.’

Adjusting your daily activities and reducing or even stopping the activity that has caused your problem will also help. For example, runners should stop running for the first six weeks of the Achilles strengthening exercise, then gradually re-introduce running.

Avoiding Achilles Pain

You can avoid developing Achilles pain by performing strengthening exercises regularly. Footwear also plays a big part in the prevention of Achilles pain, so you should make sure that the shoes you have are supportive and appropriate for the activities you use them for, and also fit properly.

shutterstock_303801479_ ankle

What is an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain refers to tearing of the ligaments of the ankle. The most common ankle sprain occurs on the outside part of the ankle. This is an extremely common injury which affects many people during a wide variety of activities.

What are the symptoms of an ankle sprain?

Patients report pain after having twisted an ankle. This usually occurs due to an inversion injury, which means the foot rolls underneath the ankle or leg. It commonly occurs during sports. Patients will complain of pain on the outside of their ankle and various degrees of swelling and bleeding under the skin (i.e. bruising). Depending on the severity of the sprain, a person may or may not be able to put weight on the foot. If you are unable to put weight through the foot you may need to seek medical attention.

If the injury is minor, you can look after yourself by using "PRICE therapy" this is described below.

PRICE stands for:

  • Protection – protect the affected area from further injury by using a support or, in the case of an ankle injury, wearing shoes that enclose and support your feet, such as lace-ups.
  • Rest – stop the activity that caused the injury and rest the affected joint or muscle. Avoid activity for the first 48 to 72 hours after injuring yourself. Your GP may recommend you use crutches.
  • Ice – for the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury; apply ice wrapped in a damp towel to the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours during the day. Don't leave the ice on while you're asleep, and don't allow the ice to touch your skin directly because it could cause a cold burn.
  • Compression – compress or bandage the injured area to limit any swelling and movement that could damage it further. You can use a simple elastic bandage or an elasticated tubular bandage available from a pharmacy. It should be wrapped snuggly around the affected area, but not so tightly that it restricts blood flow. Remove the bandage before you go to sleep.
  • Elevation  keep the injured area raised and supported on a pillow to help reduce swelling. If your leg is injured, avoid long periods of time where your leg isn't raised.

Useful Links MSK Button
Click here to view a patient information leaflet on ankle sprain.