Many is the runner who has finished training or a race with a pain somewhere in the ankle. You don’t remember injuring it, but it certainly hurts when you position it a certain way or put weight on it at a particular angle.
As well as the pain, you may feel the ankle is a little swollen and becomes progressively more uncomfortable as you point your toes, or turn them in, out or upwards. Sometimes you can pinpoint the exact spot; sometimes it’s more evasive.
A doctor or physio may find swelling in front of your Achilles tendon or an indication that there’s fluid within your ankle joint. However, there may also be other tender areas where soft tissues have been over-stretched or pulled. A specialist will look for signs of inflammation, such as redness or heat – and not only within the ankle, but throughout your body. There are many diseases which can affect the joints of your whole body, but which may have shown up in your ankle alone, simply because it’s an over-used area.
These are needed to eliminate other causes. If you’re old or have already suffered injury from contact sports, early osteo-arthritis may show up on an x-ray. Additionally, blood tests can reveal generalised diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis or rheumatoid arthritis, and these will need to be treated and monitored.
What else could it be?
As well as the diseases just mentioned, various infections may target the joint. You could even be suffering from psoriasis, a skin disease.
Simple first aid using RICE and aspirin-based medicines will ease inflammation, while you can mobilise the joint to stretch over-used ligaments and muscles. If these treatments don’t help, seek professional guidance.
Much depends on the diagnosis. Any generalised disease of the body will need anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics in an infection, and sometimes secondary line drugs. If the diagnosis is simply one of overuse or wear and tear, physiotherapy should resolve the symptoms.
Can you run through it?
You may be able to follow a reduced training programme, but to run on an inflamed or infected joint is asking for long-term damage. Your programme will depend solely on the length and severity of the disease and how effective treatment is.
Anything from a week to three months, providing you work on it.