Sudden Ankle Pain Without Injury | Total Performance Physical Therapy

Sudden Ankle Pain Without Injury

April 9, 2021

What happens when your ankle starts to hurt but you did not do anything?  You were just walking along, or maybe even just standing still and a sharp stabbing pain suddenly happens on the side or the front of the ankle.   This pain can stop you in your tracks and bring you to your knees it can be so painful.

But what happened?  You did not trip, you did not fall, you did not roll your ankle so why suddenly is there an intense pain?

We need to take a little bit deeper dive into the ankle to understand what happens.

Running down and across your foot and ankle are a lot of ligaments, nerves, and muscles.  With each step you take, these all interact in a pain free way in order to keep you standing and moving forward.  But sometimes, one of them can get caught.  It can get caught and pinched by the various bones in the foot.

You did not do anything to cause the shift that caused the pinch, this can happen with just normal movement because as you walk or stand the bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves in your foot constantly move and even the slightest bit of movement in the wrong direction can cause pinching or pain.

When you feel this pain or pinch, you have caused some inflammation in the ankle.  You may or may not have swelling that you notice.  But it is this inflammation and this trauma that causes the pain to sometime linger for days.  If it lingers longer than a few days, then you need to seek medical treatment from a professional.

It is important to note that this is not a roll of the ankle, this is not an injury, this is not ‘you stepped on a rock and your ankle shifted in a weird position’.  This is literally you were just walking or standing normally and there was suddenly, an intense severe pain that will stop you from standing or walking.  Sometimes it goes away immediately, sometimes it can take days but the important part to realize is this pain came on with no warning, no incident, just out of the blue.

What should you do?

How you handle this can make or break a fast and easy recovery or pain that lingers and causes more pain for a while.

First if the pain is bad you need to consult a medical professional and have the pain diagnosed.

This type of pain is usually accompanied by a loss of range of motion, meaning you cannot move your foot as far in each direction.  Restoring this range of motion is the first thing to work on.  Now you do not want to get it back by moving the ankle and causing a bunch of pain.  You want to make sure you do the exercises in a pain free range of motion.  Start with doing ankle circles and then move to ankle alphabet.  Do the circles in a pain free range of motion, do not push it to the point of pain.  You can try to make it bigger and bigger each time but only if it does not hurt.  When doing the alphabet, you should make the letters as long as it is pain free.

If doing the alphabet is too painful then just perform ankle circles.  You want to perform about 30 circles in each direction.  If you can perform the alphabet you want to do it, one time through.

Next you want to weight shift onto the leg.  Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart and shifting back and forth.  Trying to put all your weight on one leg and then shifting back and putting all your weight on the other leg.  If you cannot put all of your weight on the ankle that is injured but just enough to feel uncomfortable and then shift back off of it.  Repeat this process 30 times.

During this time, you want to make sure that you are wearing supportive sneakers.  It is important to make sure that you are not walking around barefoot or walk around in flip flops, so you want to make sure that your ankle is supported in the best shoe possible.

Also, during the time that you are feeling pain, you can ice and elevate the ankle.  You can do it for about 15 minutes and do it a few times a day until the sharp pain subsides.

So usually by the third day, you are going to be able to put some weight on it. So, all you want to do is you just want to put some weight and you just want to do standing heel raises nice and slow.

The final piece you want to make sure you do, but not until a couple days later is strengthen it.  You can do heel raises, as shown in the video.  Start by standing with both feet flat on the floor and then lift your heels off the ground and lower.  You want to do about 30 of these.  You can hold onto a surface to help with balance.  But you do not want to start the strengthening exercises before you can do them with no pain, this is usually not until a day or so after.

It is important to know that your ankle should be back to normal within 3-5 days at most.  If the pain lingers beyond that or if it never subsides it is important to seek professional medical help.

If you live in Bucks or Montgomery County PA, we offer FREE consultation with Doctor of Physical Therapy, all you have to do is call our office at 215-997-9898 or click here and we would be happy to get you in!