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Ankle Pain: Causes and Solutions

Ankle Pain: Causes and Solutions

We meet many clients suffering from and looking for a physio for ankle injuries. There are many causes for ankle injuries, so it is important to understand how clients may have injured their ankle, and what could be causing pain or inflammation. In today’s blog, we discuss causes and how physio for ankle injuries can be highly beneficial to those experiencing severe or long-term pain.

Ankle Injuries and How to Treat Them


A sprain is a stretching or tearing of a ligament, the tough band of tissue that connects two bones. A strain is a stretching or tearing of a muscle or tendon, the cord-like tissue that attaches muscle to bone.

You have likely strained or sprained your ankle if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Pain and/or Tenderness

  • Swelling and/or Bruising

  • Weakness of the Ankle

  • Inability to put weight on it or move normally

  • Muscle Spasms or Cramping

When measuring the severity of a sprain, we consider 3 grades: 1, 2 & 3, with severity increasing in conjunction with numbers. Unsurprisingly, there are several types of ankle sprain, as it depends on the area in which the injury occurs.

Lateral Ankle Sprain

The most common ligaments to damage when you sprain your ankle are the ones on the outer side of the ankle joint. This type of sprain is called a lateral ankle sprain. It happens when you roll your ankle outward and stretch or tear the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Occasionally, you can break a small bit of bone off the very end of the fibula.

High Ankle Sprain

It is much less common to damage the ligaments that attach across the ankle on the inner (medial) side of the foot. It occurs when you roll your ankle inward and stretch or tear the ligaments on the inside of the ankle. A high ankle sprain (a syndesmotic sprain) is one in which the ligaments above the ankle joint are stretched or torn. This type of sprain is less common than a lateral ankle sprain, but it is much more serious. The symptoms are very similar, but a high ankle sprain can take longer to heal.

An ankle sprain is a very common injury that can occur when the foot is twisted forcefully away from the lower leg. It is particularly common in sports such as football and hockey and also in skiing injuries. Typically the foot has been twisted forcefully away from the lower leg. This can cause the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle to stretch or tear, which can be very painful and lead to swelling and bruising.

How to Deal with Ankle Sprains

When experiencing a strain, there are ways to help your recovery without seeking a physio for support. Taking pain killers can help with immediate pain symptoms, but will not combat the root of the pain, so more action is often required. The generally accepted procedure is called RICE, it goes as follows:

  • Rest: Stop any exercise and avoid putting any weight on your ankle until it feels better or physio for treatment can be visited.

  • Ice: Applying an ice pack to the injury for 20 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day will help to reduce swelling and inflammation.

  • Compression: Wrapping the ankle tightly with an elastic bandage or compression stocking can help to decrease swelling.

  • Elevation: Elevating the ankle above heart level will also help to decrease swelling.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and they persist for more than a week, physio should be sought for further diagnosis and treatment. A physio can offer a comprehensive rehabilitation program that may include exercises and stretches, manual therapy, electrotherapy, education and advice on how to manage your ankle injury. A physio can also provide support if surgery is required. We will discuss this in further detail later.


An ankle fracture is a break in one of the bones which make up the ankle joint. Ankle fractures usually occur from a twisting injury, such as when you twist your ankle while walking or playing sport.

An ankle fracture can be a very painful injury. Depending upon the exact cause of the fracture, one or more bones may be involved. Fractures cause sudden pain and usually cause significant swelling. You may also notice that your ankle is misshapen or that you are unable to weight bear on it. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

A stress fracture often consists of smaller cracks in the bone, which causes pain, but less swelling. Stress fractures can often be mistaken for other conditions such as ankle sprains so it is important to get checked out by a doctor. Some common symptoms of stress fractures include pain with weight bearing, pain when the foot is dorsiflexed (pointed down), and pain that increases with activity.

How to Deal with Fractures

If you believe that you have experienced a fracture in your ankle, seek medical attention! Whilst physiotherapy for ankle pain is not helpful immediately after a fracture, its value is certainly in the recovery stage and long-term strengthening of the joint.

Physio for Ankle Pain

Depending on the injury, many practices in physiotherapy for ankle pain can be deployed. Generally, speaking a physiotherapist will likely use the following techniques:

  • Manual Therapy: Manual therapy is a key part of physiotherapy for ankle pain. This involves massage and manipulation of the affected muscles, tendons and ligaments. This can help to improve the blood flow and reduce inflammation in the area. It can also help to relieve any pain or discomfort.

  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound therapy is often used to help reduce inflammation and swelling. It uses high frequency sound waves to penetrate the skin and stimulate the tissues beneath. This can help to speed up the healing process.

  • Electro-Therapy: Electro-therapy is another technique that can be used to reduce inflammation and swelling. It uses electrical current to stimulate the tissues and help them to heal.

  • Taping: Taping is a technique that can be used to support and stabilise the ankle. It helps to keep the ankle in the correct position and can help to reduce pain and swelling. This can be particularly helpful for athletes that may require extra support when training.

  • Exercise: Exercise is an important part of physiotherapy for ankle pain. It helps to strengthen the muscles and ligaments around the ankle, which can help to prevent future injuries. Exercises may also be prescribed to help relieve pain and discomfort.

A physiotherapist focuses on the causes of problems, not simply the symptoms. Therefore, when seeing a physio for ankle pain, they will assess the entire foot, ankle and leg to find areas of weakness that may have led to the injury. As a result, the treatment can be far more effective and enhance recovery as the ankle heals, but is also strengthened and stabilised, preventing injury from recurring.

An important aspect of physiotherapy is educating the client. It is important that clients understand their bodies, to support their recovery. As clients become more in tune with themselves, they can spot signs of weakness or pain, as well as understand how exercises and treatment support them. Therefore, when seeing a physio for ankle pain, constant communication between the therapist and client is key to guaranteeing all parties understand.

Let Falcon Help You!

At Falcon Health, our experts are very experienced at providing physio treatment for ankle pain and injuries. We have seen many clients experiencing ankle pain for many reasons, so we are certain that we can help you! If you would like to see a physio for your ankle pain, or any other reason, then book a consultation today.

Alternatively, to learn about our other treatments, explore our website or contact us today on 01444 257555 or info@falcon-health.com.


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