Chronic Lateral Ankle Pain

Chronic lateral ankle pain is a condition in which you experience a recurring pain concentrated on the outside (lateral) part of the ankle. A condition common to athletes, this type of long-term discomfort is related to frequent ankle injuries and often follows a serious sprain or fracture.

Causes of chronic lateral ankle pain

A common cause of chronic lateral ankle pain is incomplete healing of the ankle joint after a serious sprain. Following any type of damage to the ligaments, which stabilize the ankle joint, the ankle will not be as strong as it was prior to the injury. If the ligaments are not allowed to heal properly, chronic pain in the joint and further injury may result.

Chronic lateral ankle pain can also be attributed to:

  • A fracture in the bones that make up the ankle joint. 
  • Arthritis of the ankle joint. 
  • Inflammation of the ankle joint lining. 
  • Nerve injury. 
  • Scar tissue in the ankle (placing pressure on the ligaments). 
  • Torn tendon or tendonitis.

Chronic lateral ankle pain symptoms

Chronic lateral ankle pain is characterized by swelling and stiffness near the ankle joint, as well as recurring pain on the outside of the ankle that worsens with exercise. The pain can be brought on by walking and playing sports, or it can manifest as a dull and constant ache.

One of the more distressing symptoms of chronic lateral ankle pain is a constant feeling of ankle instability. People with chronic lateral ankle pain often have difficulty walking in high heels or on uneven ground and are prone to repeat ankle injuries.

Treatment of chronic lateral ankle pain

Treatment for chronic lateral ankle pain will depend on the final diagnosis by your physician. Conservative treatments include: 

  • Ankle brace. 
  • Anti-inflammatory medication (to reduce swelling). 
  • Physical therapy (designed to strengthen muscles and restore joint motion). 
  • Steroid injections.

When pain can be attributed to a past fracture, the physician may recommend immobilization to allow the bone to heal.

If conservative treatment fails to reduce the chronic pain, surgery might be necessary. Surgical treatment can involve everything from the removal of loose fragments of bone, to cleaning the surface of the joint or repairing damaged ligaments or tendons.

If you suffer from chronic lateral ankle pain, make sure to consult a doctor. A physician can help create a treatment plan that will relieve the chronic pain associated with ankle injuries.


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