Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Chronic Lateral Ankle Pain

Chronic lateral ankle pain is a condition characterized by persistent pain on the outer side of the ankle. This type of pain often results from previous injuries, ongoing inflammation, or degenerative changes in the ankle joint.

Common Symptoms

  • Persistent pain on the outer side of the ankle
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Stiffness or restricted range of motion
  • A feeling of instability or weakness in the ankle
  • Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected ankle
  • Pain that worsens with activity and improves with rest

Cause & Anatomy

  • Ankle Sprains: Repeated or severe ankle sprains can damage the ligaments, leading to chronic pain.
  • Ankle Instability: Weak or torn ligaments can cause the ankle to feel unstable, often leading to recurrent sprains and pain.
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can affect the ankle joint, causing pain and inflammation.
  • Tendonitis: Inflammation of the tendons around the ankle, particularly the peroneal tendons, can cause chronic pain.
  • Fractures: A previously undiagnosed or poorly healed fracture can be a source of chronic pain.
  • Nerve Compression: Nerves in the ankle region, such as the superficial peroneal nerve, can become compressed or irritated, leading to pain.
  • Scar Tissue: Formation of scar tissue after an injury can lead to pain and restricted movement.
  • Cartilage Damage: Damage to the cartilage in the ankle joint can result in chronic pain.

Diagnosis

  • Medical History: Detailed history of symptoms, previous injuries, and activities that exacerbate the pain.
  • Physical Examination: Assessment of ankle stability, range of motion, tenderness, and swelling.
  • Imaging Studies:
    • X-rays: To identify bone abnormalities, fractures, or arthritis.
    • MRI: To visualize soft tissues, including ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.
    • CT Scan: For detailed images of bone structures if fractures are suspected.
  • Ultrasound: To assess soft tissue structures and identify tendonitis or fluid accumulation.
  • Nerve Conduction Studies: To evaluate nerve function if nerve compression is suspected.

Prevention

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Non-Surgical Treatments

Rest and Activity Modification

  • Avoid activities that exacerbate pain.
  • Use crutches or a walking boot to limit weight-bearing if necessary.

Ice and Elevation

  • Apply ice packs to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Elevate the ankle above heart level to reduce swelling.

Medications

  • NSAIDs (e.g., ibuprofen) to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corticosteroid injections for severe inflammation.

Physical Therapy

  • Exercises to strengthen the muscles around the ankle and improve stability.
  • Stretching exercises to improve flexibility.
  • Balance and proprioception training to prevent further injuries.

Bracing or Orthotics

  • Ankle braces or supportive footwear to provide stability and reduce strain on the ankle.

Injections

  • Corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to promote healing.

Surgical Treatments

Ankle Arthroscopy

  • Minimally invasive surgery to remove scar tissue, loose cartilage, or bone spurs.
  • Can also be used to repair ligaments or tendons.

Ligament Reconstruction

  • Surgery to repair or reconstruct damaged ligaments to improve ankle stability.

Tendon Repair

  • Repair of torn or damaged tendons, such as the peroneal tendons.

Osteotomy

  • Realignment of bones to correct structural abnormalities and reduce pain.

Nerve Release Surgery

  • Decompression of compressed nerves to alleviate pain.

Rehabilitation

  • Post-Surgery Rehabilitation: Customized physical therapy program to restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
  • Gradual Return to Activities: Slowly increase activity levels to avoid overloading the ankle.
  • Monitoring Progress: Regular follow-ups with healthcare providers to assess recovery and adjust treatment as needed.

FAQ’s

How can I tell if my ankle pain is chronic lateral ankle pain?
Persistent pain on the outer side of the ankle, especially if accompanied by swelling, tenderness, stiffness, a feeling of instability, or difficulty walking, may indicate chronic lateral ankle pain.

Can chronic lateral ankle pain be treated without surgery?
Yes, many cases can be effectively managed with non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, medications, bracing, orthotics, and injections. Surgery is typically considered when these treatments do not provide sufficient relief.

What kind of exercises can help with chronic lateral ankle pain?
Exercises focusing on strengthening the muscles around the ankle, improving flexibility, and enhancing balance and proprioception can help. Specific exercises may include calf raises, ankle circles, resistance band exercises, and balance training on a wobble board.

Are there specific shoes that can help with chronic lateral ankle pain?
Wearing supportive shoes with a good arch, cushioning, and a stable base can help reduce strain on the ankle. Custom orthotics may also provide additional support and alignment correction.

How long does it take to recover from chronic lateral ankle pain?
Recovery time varies depending on the severity of the condition and the chosen treatment. Non-surgical treatments may take several weeks to months, while recovery from surgery can take several months to a year with proper rehabilitation.

What should I avoid doing if I have chronic lateral ankle pain?
Avoid activities that put excessive strain on the ankle, such as high-impact sports, running on uneven surfaces, and wearing unsupportive footwear. Resting and modifying activities are crucial to prevent further injury.

When should I see a doctor for chronic lateral ankle pain?
Consult a healthcare provider if you experience persistent pain, swelling, or instability in your ankle that affects your daily activities or if the pain does not improve with rest and conservative treatments.

Can chronic lateral ankle pain lead to other complications?
Yes, if left untreated, chronic lateral ankle pain can lead to further joint degeneration, increased instability, and a higher risk of recurrent injuries. It may also contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in the ankle joint.

What are the risks of surgical treatments for chronic lateral ankle pain?
Risks of surgery include infection, blood clots, nerve damage, stiffness, and incomplete healing. However, complications are relatively rare, and many patients experience significant improvement in pain and function after surgery.

Is chronic lateral ankle pain more common in athletes?
Yes, athletes, especially those involved in high-impact sports or activities that require quick changes in direction (e.g., basketball, soccer, running), are more prone to ankle injuries and chronic lateral ankle pain.

How effective are injections for treating chronic lateral ankle pain?
Injections such as corticosteroids, PRP, and stem cell therapy can be effective in reducing inflammation, promoting healing, and providing pain relief. However, their effectiveness can vary, and they are often used in conjunction with other treatments.

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