Foot and Ankle Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Exercises

By May 17, 2021Blog
Foot and Ankle Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Exercises

The ankle and foot help you absorb the force generated when your feet hit the ground. These parts of your leg also provide your brain with sensory feedback regarding the environment around you. If you ever experienced pain in the ankle and foot, you probably know walking around may be very challenging.

What makes the ankle and foot unique?

Your feet and ankles are made up of multiple joints that usually work together but function independently. The foot is created to adapt to the ground surface and serve as a lever for energy and force. It is divided into the following regions.

Ankle joint: this is the largest joint at the top of your foot and is responsible for connecting your ankle to the lower leg. It also contributes significantly to the extension (lifting your foot) and flexion (pointing of the foot.)

The hind-foot or subtalar joint: this joint sits below the ankle in the heel and allows your foot to move outwards and inwards.

Midfoot or mid-tarsal region: this is the part of the foot where the largest arch appears. There are five bones that interact to let your foot scoop inwards and splay.

Forefoot: this part of your food consists of long bones and toes. It is commonly known as the ball of the feet.

There are many small muscles, ligaments, and long tendons that come down from muscles in your lower leg. These tissues help control movement in your foot, toes, and ankles. There’s also a large connective tissue known as plantar fascia that plays a crucial role in expanding the bottom of your foot. All these soft tissues and bones are closely interconnected and work together to allow your feet to function with the right mechanics.

Causes of ankle and foot pain

Some of the common causes of pain in the ankle or foot include:

Ankle sprains

An ankle sprain is an injury that occurs when you twist, roll, or turn your ankle joint awkwardly. This can tear or stretch the tough bands of tissue, known as ligaments that help keep your ankle bones together. Keep in mind that ligaments stabilize joints, preventing excessive movement. A sprained ankle happens when these ligaments are forced beyond their usual range of motion.

The common symptoms of sprained ankle vary depending on the severity of your injury. These symptoms include pain, tenderness when you touch the injured ankle, swelling, instability in the ankle, popping, sound or sensation at the time of the injury, and restricted range of motion.

Ankle fractures

Ankle-related injuries are one of the common bone and joint-related injuries. Often, the inability to walk, degree of pain, or a concern that there may be broken bones causes most patients to seek emergency medical care. For the most part, your doctor’s concern is the same as yours; are there broken bones? It is nearly impossible to diagnose ankle fractures without a highly detailed x-ray, CT scan, or MRI of the ankle.


Sesamoiditis is a term commonly used to describe inflammation in your sesamoid bones at the base of your big toe. Sesamoid bones are the size of a corn kernel. They are simply floating bones embedded under your big toe (one small sesamoid bone on either side) within the tendons.

The primary role of sesamoid bones is to improve equal-force transmission throughout the tendon, particularly during the ‘push-off’ phase of gait whenever your big toe is extended. If the sesamoid bones and tendons are being subjected to repetitive movement or forces, they can become swollen, worn, and irritated. This can cause pain in your foot.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome

The tarsal tunnel is some kind of pathway on the inside of your ankle area, above the inner ankle bone, specifically where tendons, and the tibial nerves travel. It’s protected and contained by a connective tissue band known as flexor retinaculum. Note that the tibial nerve divides in the tarsal tunnel to offer sensation to various parts of your foot.

The tibial nerve can become irritated in this space or tunnel due to friction or compression, leading to tussle tunnel syndrome. The common symptoms of this condition include pain and sensation disruption on your foot sole.

Achilles tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is the largest tendon in your body and connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. Note that the calf muscles are active muscles whenever you stand, walk, or perform any weight-bearing activity.

Achilles tendon can become inflamed or irritated with excessive loading, stiffness in your heel, bone, tight calf muscles, or improper load transfer throughout the lower extremity. It’s essential to build strength and make adjustments to your physical activities to allow the Achilles tendon to become resilient. If you build uploads too quickly, injuries can occur and cause a lot of pain in your foot or ankle.

Other common causes of pain in your ankle and foot include plantar fasciitis, flat foot deformity, Morton’s neuroma, shin splints, tibialis posterior tendinopathy (peroneal), and metatarsalgia. There are many causes of ankle and foot pain. To ensure a proper diagnosis, consult with a medical expert who can perform a CT scan, X-ray, or MRI to effectively identify the cause of a painful ankle and foot.

A physiotherapist can help

As mentioned earlier, there are many causes of ankle and foot pain. This makes diagnosis challenging, and your doctor may need to perform an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI. An experienced chiropractor or physiotherapist can develop a custom treatment and recovery plan to help you get back to your feet within a short period. The common treatment for ankle and foot pain may involve controlling pain with various therapeutic modalities, such as hands-on (manual) therapy to improve joint strength, dry needling (acupuncture), and individualized therapeutic exercises.

Depending on the severity of your ankle and foot injury and the specific damaged tissue, recovery can take a few days, weeks, or months. It’s essential to seek medical treatment and work with an experienced physiotherapist to achieve full recovery within the shortest time possible. You can book an appointment with our chiropodist at foot clinic in Ajax and let experienced doctors to take care of you.