Why does my ankle hurt?

A person's ankle may hurt for many reasons, from minor injuries to chronic medical conditions such as arthritis.

Ankle pain can stem from a variety of injuries to the bones, muscles, and soft tissue structures that support the ankle.

Depending on the cause, the pain can feel like sharp, shooting pain, or a dull ache. People may also notice swelling around the ankle bone.

Minor injuries, such as ankle strains and sprains, are a common cause of ankle pain. People can often treat minor injuries at home, but they should see a doctor about suspected medical conditions or injuries that get in the way of their daily life.

This article discusses some common reasons why a person’s ankle may hurt, as well as how to relieve the pain.

The Achilles tendon is a strong band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the calf muscle. The tendon can tear or rupture due to overstretching when running or exercising, or after a fall.

Taking corticosteroids or certain antibiotics, including fluoroquinolones such as Cipro, can also increase the likelihood that a person will experience a tendon rupture.

Symptoms of an Achilles tendon rupture include:

  • a reduced range of motion
  • pain that occurs suddenly in the ankle or calf
  • a popping or snapping sensation in the ankle
  • problems standing on tiptoes or walking up stairs
  • swelling on the back of the leg or ankle

In many cases, an Achilles tendon rupture requires surgery to correct.

Ankle fracture
An ankle fracture is a break of one or more of the bones in the ankle, such as the tibia or fibula. The fracture can be one clean break, or it can break the bone into smaller pieces.

Symptoms of an ankle fracture include:

  • pain that can radiate throughout the lower leg
  • swelling at the ankle and beyond
  • blistering over the injury site
  • difficulty walking and moving the foot a broken bone pushing against the skin
  • Treatments for an ankle fracture depend upon the injury’s severity and location of the fracture. Surgery is not always necessary.

Ankle sprain or strain
Sprains and strains are both types of soft tissue damage. Both can cause significant pain and discomfort, depending on severity.

A sprain is an overstretching or tearing of a ligament, which is a band of tough tissue that joins bones together. Sprains can range from partial to complete.

A strain is an injury to the muscle or tendon. Tendons are tough cords that attach muscle to bone. Strains can range from a small overstretch to a complete tear.

The ankles are a common area for sprains and strains, as they are a complex joint that endures a lot of daily movement.

Symptoms of an ankle sprain or strain include:

  • a popping or snapping sound
  • instability of the ankle joint
  • swelling
  • tenderness
    These types of injury usually occur during physical activity, such as playing a sport or running.


Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs due to a buildup of uric acid crystals in the body. Gout commonly affects the foot and ankle, especially a person’s big toe.

Symptoms of gout include:

  • pain that is usually worse at night or immediately after waking up
  • swelling around the ankle
  • warmth over the ankle joint
  • People with a family history of gout are more likely to have the condition. Other conditions that increase the risk of gout include diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Taking medicines such as diuretics or niacin can also increase the risk.



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