Ankle pain is one of the most common complaints we treat here at Sweeney Foot & Ankle Specialists. From complex sprains to simple overuse, your ankles can suffer from one of dozens of different problems that all result in pain. Thankfully, all these causes tend to respond well to the same basic treatments too. In addition to resting the ankle and following any treatment plans we recommend, try these tips for relieving minor ankle pain on your own.
If your ankle is sore after resting rather than in response to injury or overuse, you likely just need to stretch the main groups of muscles on both sides of the joint. Proper stretching also increases flexibility to prevent future twists and strains while helping you recover from past sprains. Different exercises include tracing letters with your big toe to increase range of movement, pulling each foot upward generally with a rolled towel, and curling and relaxing your toes. Your podiatrist can also recommend other stretches based on the specific condition of your ankles.
To prevent chronic inflammation and pain from future sprains, build strength in both ankles with gentle exercises. Walking is one of the best ways to build strength and balance in the ankles, but you may need braces or shoes with higher ankle support to protect you as you start out. Swimming can also help build ankle strength without as much risk of aggravating an existing sprain. Non-weight bearing exercises that involving flexing and extending the feet are a good place to start since the lack of weight prevents the risk of re-injury.
For acute strains and sprains that result from a fall or twisting of the ankle, ice is the best remedy. Cooling the affected joint reduces inflammation and swelling, bringing your pain levels down without medication. Restrict your use of ice or cool packs to just 30 minutes at a time and let your skin recover for a few hours between uses. Overusing cold packs or exposing your skin directly to ice will only result in pain, not relief. Cooling patches won't necessarily provide the same kind of pain and inflammation relief since this effect is created with menthol rather than any actual cooling effect.
Over-the-counter pain medication is a good choice for treating minor ankle pain that only occurs a few times a year in response to certain activities or secondary health conditions. Most of these pain killers are also anti-inflammatory, reducing the swelling that comes along with a sprain or strain. Ankle pain is rarely so debilitating that it requires more serious medication. If you find your joint pain is interrupting your day-to-day life, schedule an appointment to determine if you're possibly experiencing rheumatism, arthritis or another serious condition.
The ankles are some of the easiest parts of the body to elevate when injured. Elevating a body part above your heart reduces blood flow to the injured area, reducing swelling and inflammation. It's a great way to rest after exercising to build ankle strength and reduce the chance of muscle fatigue and pain.
Finally, massaging tight muscles and fascia in the feet, ankles and calves can relieve sciatica pain and related complaints. Chronic ankle pain that isn't responding to other treatments often still responds to massage, especially when combined with cycles of hot and cold pack applications.
If you have a foot or ankle condition you think you need to see a professional about, please visit our website at www.sweeneyfootankle.com to schedule an appointment or contact us at one of our two convenient locations in The Woodlands or Magnolia.