The ankles are susceptible to various problems that can cause pain and limit mobility, not just in athletes but in anyone. Simple activities like walking on an uneven surface can lead to painful ankle sprains. Ankle injuries can occur at any age, with higher rates of sprains seen in men aged 15-24 and higher rates in women over 30 compared to men. Athletic activities account for half of all ankle sprains, with 25,000 people spraining their ankle daily in the U.S. Additionally, over 1 million emergency room visits each year are due to ankle injuries. 

The most common ankle injuries involve ligaments and bones, resulting in sprains and fractures. Tendon tears or strains are also possible. For ankle injuries that limit mobility or worsen over time, it is important to seek proper diagnosis and treatment from a podiatrist. Immediate medical attention is necessary for suspected ankle fractures. 

At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, our team of experienced podiatrists specializes in addressing various foot and ankle conditions. Whether you need a routine check-up or require professional assistance for a specific issue, we are here to help. Our dedicated team is committed to providing the highest quality care, keeping you pain-free and on your feet.

The Importance of Healthy Ankles

Healthy ankles are essential for supporting the weight of our bodies and enabling activities like walking, running, and jumping. These complex structures consist of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles that work together to facilitate movement. Proper prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of ankle problems are crucial for maintaining overall foot health and mobility.

Here are the most common ankle injuries that individuals may experience:

1. Ankle Sprains

An ankle sprain, the most common ankle injury, occurs when the ligaments around the ankle joint stretch or tear. It is often caused by excessive movement, such as during sports activities or when stepping on uneven surfaces. 


The symptoms of an ankle sprain include:

  • Pain: Immediate pain is felt around the ankle joint.
  • Swelling: The injured area may become swollen due to inflammation.
  • Bruising: Bruises may develop around the ankle due to damaged blood vessels.
  • Difficulty bearing weight: Walking or putting weight on the affected ankle can be challenging.


Treatment for ankle sprains typically involves the RICE method and may require physical therapy for proper rehabilitation. 

RICE Method:

  • Rest: Avoid putting weight on the injured ankle and refrain from activities that may aggravate the sprain.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs or cold compresses to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every few hours. This helps reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
  • Compression: Use an elastic bandage or compression wrap to provide support and minimize swelling.
  • Elevation: Elevate the injured ankle above heart level whenever possible to reduce swelling and promote fluid drainage.

Physical therapy may be recommended to aid in the recovery process. A physical therapist can guide patients through exercises to restore strength, flexibility, and stability to the ankle, reducing the risk of future sprains.

2. Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is commonly caused by overuse or repetitive stress on the tendon. 


  • Overuse: Engaging in activities that involve repetitive movements or excessive strain on the Achilles tendon, such as running, jumping, or sudden increases in intensity.
  • Improper footwear: Wearing shoes that lack proper support or do not fit well can contribute to the development of Achilles tendonitis.
  • Tight calf muscles: Limited flexibility in the calf muscles can put additional stress on the Achilles tendon during physical activity.


  • Pain: Individuals with Achilles tendonitis often experience pain and tenderness at the back of the heel, which may worsen during activity or after prolonged rest.
  • Stiffness: The affected area may feel stiff, making flexing or extending the foot difficult.
  • Swelling: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon can cause swelling around the heel, making it visibly enlarged or puffy.


  • Rest: Taking a break from activities aggravating the symptoms and allowing the tendon to heal is crucial.
  • Ice: Applying ice packs or cold compresses to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every few hours can help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.
  • Stretching exercises: Gentle stretching exercises for the calf muscles and Achilles tendon can improve flexibility and promote healing. Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist for appropriate exercises.
  • Orthotics or shoe modifications: Using orthotic devices, such as heel lifts or shoe inserts, can provide support and relieve strain on the Achilles tendon.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can provide specific exercises and techniques to strengthen the ankle, improve the range of motion, and aid in the recovery process.

3. Ankle Fractures

Ankle fractures occur when one or more bones in the ankle joint break due to accidents, falls, or direct trauma. It can be a painful and debilitating condition. 


  • Accidents: Falls or high-impact accidents, such as car crashes or sports-related injuries, can lead to ankle fractures.
  • Twisting or rolling of the ankle: Sudden movements that cause the ankle to twist or roll forcefully can result in a fracture.
  • Direct trauma: A direct blow or impact to the ankle, such as from a heavy object or a fall, can cause a fracture.


  • Severe pain: Ankle fractures are typically accompanied by intense pain, which may worsen with movement or pressure on the affected area.
  • Swelling: The ankle may become swollen and bruised due to inflammation and bleeding within the tissues.
  • Deformity: In some cases, the ankle may appear visibly deformed or out of alignment.
  • Inability to bear weight: Walking or putting weight on the affected ankle becomes extremely painful and difficult.


  • Immobilization: Depending on the severity of the fracture, immobilization with a cast, splint, or brace may be recommended to keep the bones in proper alignment and promote healing.
  • Pain management: Pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed to alleviate pain and reduce swelling.
  • Elevation and ice: Elevating the leg and applying ice packs to the affected area can help reduce swelling and relieve discomfort.
  • Physical therapy: Once the fracture begins to heal, physical therapy exercises can be beneficial in restoring strength, range of motion, and flexibility to the ankle.
  • Surgical intervention: In more complicated cases, surgery may be necessary to realign and stabilize the fractured bones using screws, plates, or rods.

4. Ankle Arthritis

Arthritis refers to the inflammation and degeneration of joints, and it can also affect the ankle joint. There are various causes and treatment options for ankle arthritis. 


  • Wear and tear: Osteoarthritis, caused by the gradual breakdown of cartilage in the joints over time, can lead to ankle arthritis.
  • Inflammatory conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases can cause chronic inflammation in the ankle joint, leading to arthritis.


  • Pain: Ankle arthritis often causes chronic pain in the affected joint, which may worsen with movement or weight-bearing activities.
  • Stiffness: The ankle may feel stiff, making it difficult to move the joint freely.
  • Swelling: Inflammation of the ankle joint can result in swelling and tenderness around the area.
  • Difficulty walking: Arthritis can make it challenging to walk or perform daily activities that involve ankle movement.


  • Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids may be prescribed to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in the ankle joint.
  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises and stretches can help improve joint function, strengthen surrounding muscles, and increase flexibility.
  • Assistive devices: Using orthotic inserts, braces, or canes can provide support and alleviate pressure on the ankle, reducing pain and enhancing mobility.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in low-impact exercises, and avoiding activities exacerbating symptoms can help manage ankle arthritis.
  • Surgical intervention: In severe cases where conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgical procedures such as ankle fusion or joint replacement may be considered.

5. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition characterized by the compression or irritation of the tibial nerve in the ankle, which can lead to pain, numbness, and tingling in the foot. 


  • Overuse: Engaging in repetitive activities or putting excessive strain on the foot and ankle can contribute to tarsal tunnel syndrome.
  • Ankle Injury: Trauma or direct impact on the ankle area can cause swelling or inflammation that compresses the tibial nerve.
  • Underlying conditions: Conditions such as flat feet, arthritis, cysts, or anatomical abnormalities in the ankle can increase the risk of developing tarsal tunnel syndrome.


  • Pain: Individuals with tarsal tunnel syndrome often experience localized pain inside the ankle or along the bottom of the foot, which may radiate to the toes or upwards toward the calf.
  • Numbness and tingling: The affected foot may feel numb or tingly, resembling the sensation of pins and needles.
  • Burning or electric shock sensations: Some people may experience sensations of burning or electric shocks in the foot.
  • Weakness: In severe cases, tarsal tunnel syndrome can lead to muscle weakness or difficulty with foot movements.


  • Rest: Giving the affected foot time to rest and avoiding activities that worsen symptoms is crucial for recovery.
  • Orthotics: Custom-made shoe inserts or braces can help alleviate pressure on the tibial nerve and provide support to the foot.
  • Physical therapy: Engaging in stretching and strengthening exercises can improve flexibility, reduce inflammation, and relieve compression on the tibial nerve.
  • Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Surgical intervention: In rare cases where conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgery may be performed to decompress the tibial nerve and relieve pressure.

6. Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot. While it primarily affects the sole of the foot, it can also cause ankle pain. 


  • Overuse: Engaging in activities that place repetitive stress on the feet, such as running or standing for long periods, can lead to plantar fasciitis.
  • Foot mechanics: Flat feet, high arches, or abnormal walking patterns can contribute to the development of this condition.
  • Age and weight: Plantar fasciitis is more common in middle-aged individuals and those who are overweight or obese.


  • Heel pain: The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp, stabbing pain in the heel, especially in the morning or after periods of rest.
  • Bottom of the foot pain: The pain may also be felt along the bottom of the foot, radiating from the heel towards the toes.
  • Ankle pain: Plantar fasciitis can sometimes cause pain in the ankle, particularly if there is associated inflammation.


  • Rest: Allowing the foot to rest and avoiding activities that worsen the pain is essential for healing.
  • Stretching exercises: Gentle stretching exercises targeting the calf muscles and plantar fascia can help alleviate symptoms and improve flexibility.
  • Orthotics: Custom-made shoe inserts or supportive footwear can provide arch support and cushioning, relieving pressure on the plantar fascia.
  • Supportive footwear: Wearing shoes with proper arch support and cushioning can help reduce strain on the plantar fascia.
  • Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or pain relievers may be recommended to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Steroid injections: In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be used to provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.

Get Your Expert Care at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists

Ankle injuries can happen to anyone and are not limited to athletes. They can occur during everyday activities and can be debilitating. It is important to understand common ankle problems such as sprains, fractures, and tendon tears to seek proper medical attention and treatment for a full recovery.

At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, we specialize in providing expert care for various foot and ankle conditions. Our team of experienced podiatrists is dedicated to diagnosing and treating ankle injuries with a personalized approach. We aim to provide the highest quality care to help you regain your mobility and get back to your daily activities.

If you or someone you know is experiencing ankle pain, limited mobility, or has suffered an ankle injury, it's time to take control of your ankle health. Schedule a consultation with our specialists at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists to receive a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan. 

Don't let an ankle sprain prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest. Contact Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists today to schedule an appointment or consultation with one of our specialists.

Frequently Asked Question

How can I prevent ankle injuries?

To help prevent ankle injuries, it is important to maintain strength and flexibility in the ankle joint through exercises such as calf raises, ankle rolls, and balance exercises. Wearing appropriate footwear for activities, using protective equipment (like ankle braces) when needed, and being cautious on uneven surfaces can also reduce the risk of ankle injuries.

Can tarsal tunnel syndrome be cured without surgery?

In many cases, tarsal tunnel syndrome can be managed without surgery. Non-surgical treatment options may include rest, immobilization, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections. However, surgical intervention may be necessary in some severe or resistant cases.

Can I walk on a fractured ankle?

Walking on a fractured ankle is not recommended and can further worsen the ankle injury. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect an ankle fracture. Treatment options may include immobilization with a cast or brace or, in severe cases, surgery.

How long does it take for a sprained ankle to heal?

The healing time for a sprained ankle can vary based on the severity of the sprain. Mild sprains may heal within a few weeks, while more severe sprains can take several months. Following the R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method and adhering to the recommended treatment plan from a healthcare professional can help expedite the healing process.