Physical Therapy for Ankle Pain

This page will explore what physical therapy treatments are available for those suffering from ankle pain so you can get back up on your feet!

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Physical therapy can help you to recover from ankle pain

We provide physical therapy for ankle pain because the ankle is a complex joint that has many moving parts. It provides stability, power, and mobility to the foot. 

The ankle joints are surrounded by ligaments that provide support to keep it stable. When these ligaments become injured or strained, they can affect your stability, power, and mobility in different ways depending on how severe the injury is.

How common is ankle pain?

Ankle sprains and strains are very common, especially among athletes. There are over 1 million ankle injuries each year and sprains make up the majority of those injuries. These injuries can range from a mildly sprained ankle to overuse pain, all the way up to stress fractures or a break of the ankle joint, or ankle bones.

Ankle fracture is usually caused by falls from heights greater than 3 feet, such as jumping off a ladder. However, it may also be caused by high-energy injuries like getting hit by a car or falling off your bike at high speed. When you hear that someone “broke their ankle” they are referring to an injury where one of the bones in the ankle is fractured.

If you are an active person, there is a high probability that you will eventually endure an ankle injury of some sort. These injuries can lead to a surprising amount of swelling, pain, and limitations in your daily life, and working with a physical therapist can help you return to your usual daily activities as quickly as possible.

What are the parts
of the ankle?

Posterior malleolus

The posterior malleolus is the bony bump on the back of your ankle and it provides a base for the tibia to sit.

Lateral malleolus

The lateral malleolus is the bony bump on your outer ankle that attaches to the fibula.

Medial malleolus

The medial malleolus is a bone that sits inside of your ankle that attaches to the tibia.

Talus

The talus is the large bone at the top of your foot that helps to form your ankle joint.

Tibia

The tibia is the larger of your two leg bones that runs from your knee down to your ankle. Also referred to as your shin bone.

Fibula

The fibula is a long, thin bone located on the outside of your lower leg. It attaches to the lateral malleolus and helps to provide stability to your ankle. It also gives support for another important structure

Tibialis Posterior tendon

The tibialis posterior tendon helps to provide power in transferring weight from your body to your leg when you are walking or running. It also stabilizes the ankle to help you balance and move.

Achilles Tendon

The Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in your body. It is very strong and helps to provide power, but it also has a more important role than just providing power for walking and running. The Achilles tendon also stabilizes the ankle joint by preventing excessive anterior (forward) motion.

Tibiocalcaneal ligament (TCL)

The tibiocalcaneal ligament is one of the major stabilizing structures within your ankle. Its role as one of the ankle ligaments is to stabilize the ankle joint during movement by preventing excessive lateral (side-to-side) motion of the ankle which protects the outside of the ankle.

Anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL)

The anterior talofibular ligament (or ATFL for short) is a very important structure within the ankle joint. Its role as one of the ankle ligaments is to stabilize the ankle joint during movement by preventing excessive lateral (side-to-side) motion of the ankle. 

Posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL)

The posterior talofibular ligament is one of the major stabilizing structures within your ankle. Its role as one of the ankle ligaments is to stabilize the ankle joint during movement by preventing excessive medial (front-to-back) motion of the ankle.

What are the most common causes of ankle pain?

Ankle sprain

Ankle sprains and strains make up the majority of ankle injuries and can be caused in a variety of ways. The most common reason for an ankle sprain is when you step on someone’s foot or your foot rolls over onto an uneven surface, such as the curb while you are walking down the sidewalk. Ankle sprains, sometimes called ankle rolls, can also be caused by sudden acceleration or deceleration during a sporting activity such as basketball, soccer, or football.

Ankle strain

Ankle sprains and strains are the most common form of ankle injuries, and can range from minor to severe ankle strains. Overuse injuries of the ankle joint are another way that you can injure your ankle and overuse may occur because of repetitive movements made during running, jumping, landing after a jump, and many other similar actions.

Achilles tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in your body. It runs from your calf muscle down to the back of your heel and helps to provide power when you walk or run.  When you stretch or tear this tendon, it can lead to pain and inflammation making it difficult for you to place weight on that leg.

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Sports injuries

These injuries have many causes and are often sports injuries. 

Repetitive impact on the heel can place stress on the tendon, leading to tiny tears which can add up over time. Because, tendons do not get blood supply as quickly as muscles they often take longer to heal, so it’s important to optimize your recovery and take time off from very demanding sports.

What can I do to relieve ankle pain?

You can relieve ankle pain in many different ways. One of the most obvious is to stop doing the activity that caused your injury. 

Based on your specific needs, it’s always important to rest and take a break from an activity if your ankles are swollen or inflamed. For example, if you notice slight swelling after a workout, this could mean you need to stop and assess your form, use the frequency and functionality of the surrounding muscles.

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Rest or activity

You may be surprised to learn that you should rest your ankle instead of exercising it. Exercising through pain can cause more damage and prevent you from healing properly.

Make sure to talk with your doctor or physical therapist before starting an exercise program after having an ankle sprain or strain. Compression wraps, ice, cold therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have all been shown to help treat pain.

Ice or heat for ankle injuries

Depending on the type of injury, ice and heat are two of the most popular ways to help lower swelling or to help maintain more mobility after an injury.

Apply the ice pack for 20 minutes at a time several times a day. This will help to reduce swelling and relieve pain. It's important not to place the ice directly on your skin but wrapped in a towel or cloth to avoid hurting the skin.

Compression

Compression wraps around the ankle and lower leg help to reduce swelling and decrease pain. This can be especially useful if you have an injury to your Achilles tendon. These types of compression devices are designed to keep the affected area firmly in place while still allowing blood flow through it for healing purposes.

Elevation

Keeping your ankle elevated will help reduce the swelling and inflammation that can occur. It does so by allowing drainage of the injury and the surrounding lymph vessels with can often be working overtime after an injury. If possible, try to elevate your leg above your heart to assist the return flow of blood away from the injury.

How do healthcare providers
treat ankle pain?

There are several different ways that healthcare providers will treat your ankle pain depending on the type of injury, but there are two major treatment methods.

With physical therapy, the main goal is to minimize pain while restoring function to the ankle. By performing exercises to improve movement and strength, you can help support the ankle while it heals as well as address any muscle weakness that may have led to the injury occurring in the first place.

Physical therapists will use a variety of techniques to measure and treat your pain. A variety of other techniques that you might see used during physical therapy include:

Therapeutic exercises

This commonly involves working with weights or resistance bands to help build muscle strength, improve range of motion, and provide better joint mobilization.

Ice/heat treatments

This might involve ice packs or hot water bottles that are applied directly to your skin for several minutes at a time. Always make sure to check with your healthcare provider before trying any of these treatments at home since they can be risky if used incorrectly.

Manual Massage

Manual therapy of the surrounding soft tissues can be used on its own to help relax the muscles, increase circulation and decrease pain, and is commonly used in conjunction with stretching or resistance bands exercises.

TENS units

TENS or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation units stimulate the nerves with small amounts of electricity and may be used along with other pain relief techniques such as heat and massage.

Are you experiencing pain in your ankle?

Take the next step to know and understand all of the possible causes and treatments to get you back to your normal activities and make a full recovery

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Our Client Success Stories

I have had the most positive with Dr. Denise and Dr. Manny. I had ankle surgery where I had 8 screws and a plate... They helped me regain my strength and the self confidence that I can do another race again! They are so friendly, extremely caring and funny!! It’s the perfect physical therapy center! Highly recommend ❤️
Jackie M
Manny has been working with me twice a week for almost three years. He is extremely knowledgeable, plus he pushes me to work my hardest. I recommend him above anyone else. He also is a nice guy, plus really strong, which helps a lot since I am a big guy.
Bill L
Dr. Manny is so compassionate towards his patients. You’re not just a patient, you become part of the family. They absolutely care about healing your pain.
Denise M

Ankle Pain FAQ

Achilles tendon injuries can be treated with physical therapy. The main goal of treatment is to reduce pain and improve function while restoring mobility to the injured Achilles tendon. This can be achieved through performing specific exercises designed to strengthen the calf muscle, restore ankle range of motion, and increase flexibility in the Achilles tendon itself. Therapeutic modalities (such as ice and electrical stimulation) may also be used to reduce pain and swelling.

Ankle sprains, or injuries that cause the ligaments surrounding the ankle to stretch or tear, can be difficult for many patients to manage on their own. However, with physical therapy, these types of injuries can be managed and treated successfully. Physical therapy can provide a variety of techniques that you can use to prevent sprains from recurring, as well as several exercises designed to strengthen the muscles surrounding your ankle joint.

Stability and control are very important in preventing ankle sprains. Exercises that focus on increasing the strength of the structures that surround and support your ankles and foot muscles can give you the stability needed to keep this injury from occurring. Often sprains are injured when the foot twists and puts the ankle into a position of insecure balance. Strengthening the muscles that support your foot will help to prevent this from happening.

 

Contact Impact Care Physical Therapy To Treat Your Ankle Pain Today

As a patient of Impact Care Therapy, you can expect the most comprehensive care available. Our physical therapists will ensure that your experience with us – from assessment to diagnosis and treatment – will be of the highest standard. 

If you or someone you know is currently suffering from an ankle injury, please contact us to schedule an appointment. Our team will be happy to discuss our concerns in further detail. 

If you need help with ankle pain, click here to fill out my service request form!

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