Senior Care - How to Provide Elderly Independence

Ankle Problems That Can Mimic A Sprain

by Stephen Silva

When you experience ankle pain, do you automatically assume you sprained your ankle somehow? You're not alone. Mild ankle sprains are common, and sometimes, people do mildly sprain their ankle and forget about it until it causes them some pain hours later. However, there could also be something else going on. There are some other ankle problems that can mimic a sprain. It's important to consider whether you might be affected by one of these problems so that you can receive the proper care if needed.


Does your ankle pain mostly arise after you've been inactive? For example, maybe your ankle aches when you get up in the morning, but then it loosens up and is less painful once you start moving it. You could be suffering from osteoarthritis. This is a degenerative condition in which the cartilage in a joint wears away, leading to friction between the bones in the joint. This friction, in turn, leads to inflammation and pain. 

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are treatments that help ease the pain. NSAIDs and physical therapy can really help. With osteoarthritis, it's usually best to do some gentle, physical activity to mobilize the joint and keep inflammation at bay. This is the opposite way that ankle sprains are treated — with lots of rest — which is why you never want to mistake arthritis for a sprain.

Stress Fractures

Are you an athlete who spends hours on their feet, running or walking? There's a possibility that your ankle pain is due to a stress fracture. A stress fracture is a break in the bone that is caused not by one injury or incident, but by repeated stress over time. With a stress fracture, the pain tends to be worse when you're walking, but it will persist even when you're not walking. There is usually a spot that becomes really painful when pressed on. That's where the break is. 

Stress fractures are treated with rest. People often have to wear a therapeutic boot for a few weeks to protect their ankles, too. Then, you'll need to return to physical activity slowly and carefully.

Not all ankle pain is due to a sprain. If you have ankle pain and you do not specifically recommend taking a funny step and twisting your ankle, consider the other possibilities above. You can and should see a foot doctor to make sure you're given the right diagnosis and care. 

Contact a local foot doctor for more info.