Frequently Asked Questions
What causes foot and ankle pain?
There can be a variety of causes of pain in the foot or ankle but the more common problems are ligament sprains and tendinopathies.
Ligament sprains around the ankle are very common and are normally caused by sudden twisting movements or a fall. With these types of injury the ligaments become overstretched and this can injure them. You might notice your ankle becomes swollen and occasionally some bruising can occur, but the good news is that in most cases ligament sprains settle within 6 weeks. Sometimes symptoms can last a bit longer and if this is the case it is best for you to speak with a physiotherapist or your GP. Also, if you’ve had a twisting type injury and you cannot place any weight through your foot then seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Tendinopathies occur when the tendons surrounding the foot or ankle become painful. Although this can occur after a specific injury, it’s normally following a sudden change in your normal daily routine or exercise programme. By making some appropriate changes to your routine, these type of problems normally settle after a few weeks. Sometimes symptoms can last longer or they keep recurring, so if this applies to you then it is probably worth seeing a physiotherapist for some advice.
Do I need an X-Ray or a scan?
In the vast majority of cases investigations are not needed as they will not change the way that your symptoms are managed. However, if you have had a twisting type injury and your ankle is swollen and you’re unable to place any weight on it then it is best to see a medical professional as soon as possible.
Do I need surgery?
Only very occasionally are injections or surgery needed for foot and ankle pain and this is normally in very persistent cases. The vast majority of foot and ankle problems settle with a combination of exercise, medication and lifestyle changes.
Is there anything that I should look out for?
Serious problems with the foot or ankle are very rare but there are a few things to look out for. If you notice any of the following then please make an urgent appointment with your GP.
A fever or feeling unwell
A red, hot and swollen calf, ankle or foot
Being unable to weight bear on your leg, especially after any recent trauma
Constant pain that doesn’t change with activity or rest
Unexplained weight loss
A previous history of cancer
What can I do to help manage my problem?
There are a number of things that you can do to help with your symptoms. Sometimes it is worthwhile looking at your footwear, especially if you are up and about on your feet a lot during the day. Supportive and cushioned shoes can help to improve your symptoms.
Modifying activities is a useful way to help settle your symptoms. Reducing the intensity or frequency of the activities that you find irritable can be useful in the short term. As your symptoms start to improve, these activities can then be reintroduced gradually over time, allowing your body the chance to adapt.
Exercise is an important part of your recovery. A combination of range of movement, strengthening and balance exercises can all help and some examples can be found within our foot and ankle leaflet.
If your pain is preventing you from keeping active then it may be worthwhile speaking with your GP or pharmacist about medication. By keeping your pain under better control, you will be more likely to keep active and this will help your recovery in the long term.
Addressing other lifestyle factors such as low mood, stress, poor sleep and a lack of exercise can all help to improve our experience of pain. Being overweight can also affect your foot and ankle pain, so trying to lose weight can help. If you feel you need support with any of these changes then speak with your GP.