Health Care

A Joint Effort: How to Heal Your Chronic Ankle Pain

A woman runner holding her ankle while outdoors.

Choose the health content that’s right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox.

Chronic ankle pain is pain or discomfort in the ankle that you’ve experienced for a long time. That typically means for more than six weeks, but many people live with ankle pain for months or even years, often not being able to point to a specific injury or event that led to it. But the pain tends to gradually increase over time. Some patients may have had an injury that triggered their symptoms, or a new exercise routine, new shoes or some other change. Ankle arthritis may be at play as well.

Whatever the reason for your ankle pain, whether a former injury or ankle arthritis, we’re here with our foot and ankle surgery expert, Zachary Cavins, DPM, FACFAS, to walk you through symptoms and causes of ankle pain, treatment options and how to take charge of your joint health. With Dr. Cavins as your guide, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.

What Are Symptoms of Chronic Ankle Pain?

Some patients describe a severe, stabbing pain. Others say that their ankle pain is more of a dull ache. Dr. Cavins explains, “You may notice swelling in your ankle or foot. You may also have trouble walking, especially on uneven surfaces, stairs and hilly terrain. You might also experience challenges with certain shoes, like high-heeled shoes.”

Some patients report unstable ankles, or being prone to twists and sprains, or that their ankle feels stiff. “Typically, the ankle may not be very painful while sitting or at rest but becomes worse after prolonged standing or heightened activity. It’s also normal to be able to do some or all your regular activities on your ankle, only to feel terrible pain later or the next day,” says Dr. Cavins.

What Are Ankle Arthritis Symptoms?

When it comes to ankle arthritis as the culprit for your ankle pain, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Ankle stiffness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Joint swelling
  • Red or warm joints
  • Tenderness near your ankle joint

If you have any of the following systemic symptoms, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor because it may indicate a more serious cause of ankle arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

What Are the Causes of Ankle Pain?

“Various injuries and conditions can lead to chronic ankle pain,” says Dr. Cavins. He continues, “A common cause is incomplete healing after a sprained ankle. Others include arthritis, tendonitis, alignment issues, cartilage damage, ankle impingement or stress fractures.”

What Are the Treatment Options for Ankle Pain?

There are several treatments that can reduce pain and improve the function of your ankle, depending on the severity of your symptoms. “Severe symptoms may require surgery and physical therapy. Mild to moderate symptoms are usually manageable with noninvasive approaches like medicine and ankle support,” says Dr. Cavins.

Keep reading for more information on treatment options for ankle pain:

Pain medication

Tylenol is the first-line treatment for ankle arthritis. Other considerations include NSAIDs, such as Motrin, which may reduce inflammation at your ankle.

NSAIDs are available both as an oral supplement and a topical cream. Topical NSAIDs are available over the counter.

Ankle and Shoe Support

Ankle braces and shoe inserts are both considered possible treatments for ankle arthritis. Braces help to stabilize your ankle. Shoe inserts ensure even distribution of weight on your ankle joint. Both braces and shoe inserts lend additional stability to your ankle joint.

Weight Loss

Being at a heavier body weight puts more stress on your ankle joints than being at a lower body weight. Weight loss for joint pain is considered a conservative treatment for ankle arthritis; it can help mild to moderate cases, as it reduces stress on your joint.

Research found that losing one pound of weight resulted in four pounds of pressure being removed from the knees. That means losing 10 pounds would relieve 40 pounds of pressure from your ankles.


As the most invasive form of treatment, surgery may be recommended for severe cases of osteoarthritis. It’s typically considered a last resort and is reserved for cases of ankle arthritis that won’t respond to more conservative treatments.

Take Charge of Your Joint Health

At AdventHealth, our advanced foot and ankle orthopedic specialists will partner with you in a joint effort to heal your chronic ankle pain.

Whether it’s from arthritis, an old injury or anything in between, schedule an appointment with an advanced foot and ankle specialist today so we can help you get back on your feet.

Recent Blogs

A mom chopping vegetables with her daughters in the kitchen.
Easy Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Veggies
Applying sunscreen to child
Sunscreen: Most Frequently Missed Areas
Your Essential Guide to Cancer Screenings by Age
An older man speaks to his doctor
Radiation Therapy: Colorectal Cancer Treatment and Recovery
B.E. F.A.S.T.: 6 Stroke Symptoms to Know When Every Second Counts
View More Articles