What can lead to sudden ankle pain without injury?

Our ankles bear the weight of our entire body every day, but we don’t often exercise them to their full range of motion. It’s very easy to twist or sprain your ankle with a trip or slip of the feet. However, some people notice sudden ankle pain without an apparent injury.

In this article, we’ll outline a few possible causes of sudden ankle pain without injury and how physical therapy can help.

Why does sudden ankle pain happen?

The foot and ankle are a complex system made up of 28 bones, 112 ligaments and 33 joints that are controlled by 34 muscles. If you’re not doing toe circles to exercise them regularly, a slight misstep can cause a lot of ankle pain suddenly with no injury.

Sudden ankle pain can happen for several different reasons that can be potentially serious. If you’re wearing different shoes or if your shoes don’t provide enough support in the arches, you can develop pain in your ankle. If you have a condition like rheumatoid arthritis or you’re sensitive to barometric pressure, changes in the weather can cause sudden joint pain.

6 potential causes of sudden ankle pain without injury

Sudden ankle pain can be a mechanical issue with the tendons and muscles inside your ankle or the first sign of a more serious condition. If you notice sudden ankle pain often or if it lasts more than a couple of weeks, you should seek help from a physical therapist.

There are a few different conditions that can bring on sudden ankle pain without injury:

  • Achilles tendinitisTendinitis is the inflammation of any tendon in the body. The Achilles tendon stretches from the base of your heel up to the end of your calf muscle, running through the back of your ankle. When it becomes inflamed, it can cause sudden ankle pain without injury.
  • GoutGout is a form of arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid-creating crystals that settle in the joints. Many people who have gout initially notice it in their feet. Gout in the ankle can be very painful.
  • Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD) — PTTD is a condition that affects the foot and ankle. It’s a progressive disease, so PTTD can cause pain and imbalances as it weakens and damages the tendon that supports the arch of the foot. 
  • Stress fracture — A stress fracture can form slowly from compression and friction in a bone over time. If you notice sudden ankle pain without an apparent injury, a stress fracture could be forming. 
  • Flat feet — Some people are born with flat feet, and some people get it as a result of PTTD. When the arch collapses, the ankle is put under excessive strain. This strain can seem to cause sudden pain or discomfort in the ankle when standing and walking.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition where the autoimmune system starts attacking the body. It most often affects the joints, causing them to gradually deteriorate. You may notice sudden pain in your ankle without injury as a result of rheumatoid arthritis.

How physical therapy can help

A physical therapist can examine how your foot and ankle are working to rule out serious conditions and injuries. They’ll ask you some questions about your activities and possibly the kinds of shoes you wear so they can advise you on how to care for your ankle pain. A PT might recommend orthotics like insoles or a brace to keep your ankle in place and with less pain.

  • Joint mobilization — In this manual therapy technique, the PT will gently touch your foot and ankle with repetitive movements to stimulate blood flow, loosen stiffness and get your ankle joint moving with less pain.
  • Trigger point therapy — This is another manual technique for releasing stiffness. Trigger points are places in the body that can refer pain to a distant part in the body when compressed. Your PT will apply light pressure to relieve tension.
  • Exercises — Your PT can guide you through exercises to strengthen your foot and calf muscles as well as stretches to ease tension in your ankles. Practice these at home as directed to continue relieving pain and stiffness.

Get help with ankle pain at Lattimore PT

We can help you determine what’s causing your sudden ankle pain without injury and the best way to get relief. If you’ve lost mobility in your foot due to ankle pain, our physical therapists at Lattimore PT can provide treatment to help restore flexibility and range of motion. 

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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