What Should I Do About The Pain In The Back Of My Ankle?

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There’s A Pain In The Back Of My Ankle; What Should I Do?

Ankle leg pain, man holding sore and painful foot muscle, sprain or cramp ache filled with red pink bright place. Overtrained injured person when training exercising or running outdoors.

Are you experiencing pain in the back of your ankle?

Would you like to understand the cause and the best type of treatment?

The symptoms of pain in the back of the ankle can include swelling, stiffness, and limited range of motion. These symptoms are not only uncomfortable but can also disrupt your daily activities, such as working, walking, and exercising.

So, if you are experiencing back ankle pain, it's important to seek help from a Physical Therapist to find and fix the underlying cause.

What kind of pain is it?

Everyone encounters pain at some point, but not all pain is the same. There are various types of pain, and it's important to understand the differences.

Acute pain is a sudden, sharp pain that typically goes away with the appropriate treatment. This type of pain is most associated with accidents and injuries.

In contrast, chronic pain is a persistent pain that lasts for weeks or even months.

This type of pain can be challenging to treat and may need a long-term management plan.

Musculoskeletal pain, the type most commonly affects the ankles, is localized to the muscles, bones, or joints, and is frequently associated with a specific injury or condition.

However, in rare cases, pain in the back of the ankles could well be nerve pain. Nerve pain, or neuropathic pain, is a type of pain that is caused by damage or dysfunction in the nervous system. It can be characterized by various sensations, from burning, shooting, or stabbing pain to tingling or numbness.

Multiple factors, including injury or nerve trauma, can cause nerve pain. These conditions affect the nervous system, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis, or viral or bacterial infections that affect the nerves.

Additionally, some medications or chemotherapy treatments can also cause nerve damage and result in nerve pain.

Nerve pain can be chronic and significantly impact your quality of life. By understanding the differences between these types of pain, you can better manage your symptoms and seek appropriate treatment.

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What Causes Pain In The Back Of the Ankle?

Running sport injury - twisted broken ankle. Female athlete runner touching foot in pain due to sprained ankle.

It can be incredibly frustrating if you have sharp or throbbing pain in the back of your ankle. It can also cause anxiety, making you worry about what might be going on inside the ankle, whether it'll get better on its own or whether it'll get worse.

The cause of pain in the heel can vary. But the most common reasons for this type of pain relate to overuse, injury, or existing conditions such as arthritis. But the pain in the back of the ankle can also be caused by other conditions such as:

Achilles’ tendinitis:

Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Achilles tendinitis can be caused by repetitive stress to the Achilles tendon, such as overuse during physical activity like running, jumping, or hiking.

Poor footwear, tight calf muscles, or sudden increases in exercise intensity or duration can also contribute to the development of Achilles tendinitis.

Certain medical conditions, like diabetes or arthritis, can also increase the risk of developing this condition. Being overweight or obese also places extra strain on the Achilles tendon. 

Achilles tendon rupture: 

This condition is a more severe injury that occurs when the tendon tears completely, typically causing sudden, sharp pain in the back of the ankle.

Achilles tendon rupture is often caused by a sudden and forceful foot and ankle motion, such as jumping or running too quickly.

This force can strain the tendon excessively, especially if it is already weakened by overuse or degeneration.

Achilles tendon rupture may also be caused by a direct blow or trauma to the ankle or foot or by a sudden change in direction while playing sports like basketball or soccer.

In addition, in some cases, certain medications, such as fluoroquinolone antibiotics or steroid injections, can increase the risk of Achilles tendon rupture.

3d illustration of male foot with ankle pain

Ankle impingement:

Ankle impingement occurs when soft tissue, such as tendons or ligaments, becomes pinched between the bones in the ankle joint and can cause pain in the back of the ankle.

Ankle impingement is usually caused by repetitive activities that involve dorsiflexion (bending the foot upwards) of the ankle joint.

This flexion causes soft tissue, such as tendons or ligaments, to become pinched or compressed between the bones in the ankle joint.

Ankle impingement may also result from bone spurs or overgrown bony structures that rub against the surrounding tissue, ankle sprains, or scar tissue.

In addition, ankle impingement can occur in some cases due to a previous ankle injury that was not adequately treated or rehabilitated.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome:

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is when the tibial nerve, which runs down the leg and into the foot, becomes compressed or pinched as it passes through a narrow tunnel behind the ankle bone.

This condition causes pain, numbness, or tingling in the back of the ankle and into the foot.


Sciatica is typically caused by a herniated disk in the lower back. It can also cause nerve pain in the back of the ankle.

The sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down the back of each leg, can become compressed and cause a sharp, shooting pain that can extend into the ankle and foot.

How To Prevent Pain In The Back Of The Ankle

woman stretching ankle to avoid pain before running

Whether trying to stay active or just get through your daily routine, the last thing you need is a painful ankle. It can be debilitating. But there are things that can help prevent getting pain in the back of your ankle.

One of the most important tips is to wear comfortable shoes that provide adequate support for your feet and ankles.

You should also try to maintain a healthy weight, as excess weight can put extra pressure on your ankles.

Additionally, always warm up and stretch before any physical activity to prevent strains and other injuries. And finally, don't push yourself too hard; listen to your body and rest when needed.

How Physical Therapy Can Fix Pain In The Back Of The Ankle

physical therapist's adjustment of patient's foot

Pain in the back of the ankle and/or foot pain can make even the simplest of tasks seem impossible. But physical therapy offers a range of benefits if you have pain in the back of the ankle.

Firstly, we can diagnose the root cause and work out precisely what is causing your pain. Secondly, we can improve your range of motion, reduce inflammation, and help you prevent future occurrences of the same issue.

Finally, with regular physical therapy, you can return to enjoying the activities you love without being held back by pain. 

The treatment methods we use to treat pain in the back of your ankle may include manual therapy techniques, myofascial release, and ankle joint mobilization, as well as guiding you through a range of exercises to improve motion and strength.

Massage therapy, too, can sometimes help to relieve pain and tension in the body, depending on the cause, with different techniques tailored to target specific areas of discomfort.

Ultimately, the best treatment option for you will depend on your unique needs and preferences. Occasionally, we may also prescribe custom foot orthotics to wear in your shoes to eliminate pain in the back of the ankle. 

All the techniques we use are designed to help alleviate your pain and improve flexibility and range of motion without resorting to medication or surgery. 

Knowing what to expect from each session is important. This information can help ease any nerves or anxiety you may be feeling and allow you to focus on your recovery. 

Typically, you can expect to do a series of exercises tailored to your specific needs and goals during your session.

These exercises may range from gentle stretches to more challenging strength-building movements. We guide you through each exercise and provide feedback to ensure proper form and technique.

In terms of duration, sessions can vary depending on your treatment plan and the severity of your ankle pain, but most typically last anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.

Regardless of the exercises or session length, the goal is always the same: to help you regain strength, mobility, and function to get back to doing what you love.

So, Physical Therapy may be the perfect solution for relieving your ankle pain, but how do you know if physical therapy is right for you? 

Don't worry. We offer a Free Private Screen with one of our Physical Therapists. During this free appointment, we'll explain what is causing your pain, which options to fix it, how long it will take, and how much it'll cost so there are no surprises.

We'll also explain how physical therapy can help with chronic pain in the back of the ankle and the benefits for your situation. Book yours now

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