If you have ankle pain, it is helpful to understand common ankle injuries and treatments. The ankle specialists at Cary Orthopaedics are here to help.

Ankles support every step we take. They are susceptible to injuries because of their complex structure and constant use. First, let’s take a look at common ankle injuries:

Ankle sprains

Sprained ankles are among the most common injuries seen by orthopaedic doctors. A sprain is the result of a stretched or torn ankle ligament.

This injury often happens after sudden twisting, turning or rolling movements of the foot. Many athletes experience ankle sprains while playing sports, but it can happen to anyone who takes the wrong step.

Symptoms of ankle sprains include pain, swelling, bruising and difficulty walking.

Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) can help with swelling from a sprain. Over-the-counter pain medications can alleviate pain and inflammation. More severe cases may require immobilization with a brace or cast and physical therapy.

Ankle fractures

An ankle fracture is a break in one or more bones that make up the ankle joint. High-impact trauma, such as a fall or a sports-related incident, can cause a fracture.

Common symptoms include severe pain, swelling, tenderness and inability to bear weight on the foot.

Treatment options for a fracture vary based on the type and severity of the break. Simple fractures may heal with the use of a cast or walking boot. Complex fractures may require surgery to realign and stabilize the bones with screws, plates or rods.

Achilles tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body, connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone. Achilles tendonitis is an injury caused by inflammation and micro-tears in the tendon.

The injury occurs from overuse, repetitive activities or a sudden increase in physical activity.

Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the back of the ankle, swelling and difficulty walking or participating in activities.

Treatment for Achilles tendonitis may include rest, physical therapy, stretching exercises, orthotics and, in some cases, surgery.

Chronic ankle instability

Chronic ankle instability occurs when the ankle becomes repeatedly unstable, leading to frequent sprains or a feeling of “giving way.” This condition often results from inadequate healing of a previously injured ankle.

Common symptoms include persistent pain, recurrent ankle sprains and a sensation of ankle weakness.

Non-surgical treatments include physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and improve balance. Bracing or taping the ankle can provide more support and reduce pain.

In severe cases, ankle surgery may be necessary to repair or reconstruct the damaged ligaments.

Preventing ankle injuries

While understanding common ankle injuries and their treatments is helpful, prevention is the key to avoiding the injury in the first place. Here are some tips to help you protect your ankles and maintain their health:


Before engaging in any physical activity or exercise, it’s crucial to warm up your muscles and perform stretching exercises. This helps increase blood flow to the muscles and improves their flexibility, reducing the risk of ankle injuries. Focus on stretching the calf muscles, Achilles tendon and the muscles surrounding the ankles.

Wear appropriate shoes

Investing in proper footwear is important for ankle injury prevention. Choose shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning for your feet and ankles.

For activities that involve lateral movements or high-impact sports, try athletic shoes specifically designed for those activities. Make sure your shoes fit properly and provide stability.

Strengthen your ankles

Strengthening the muscles surrounding your ankle bones can help provide stability and support. Incorporate exercises that target the ankle muscles into your regular workout routine.

Simple exercises like calf raises, ankle circles and resistance band exercises can help improve ankle strength and balance.

If you have a history of injury or chronic instability, see a physical therapist for specific exercises to strengthen your ankles.

Be mindful of your surroundings

Pay attention to your surroundings and be mindful of potential hazards that may lead to ankle injuries. Uneven surfaces, loose gravel or slippery floors can increase the risk of falling or twisting your ankle. Avoid walking or running on unstable surfaces, and be extra careful when engaging in outdoor activities.

Start new activities slowly

If you’re starting a new sport or fitness routine, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your training. Sudden spikes in activity levels can put excessive stress on your ankles and increase the likelihood of injury.

Listen to your body and give yourself ample time to adapt and strengthen your muscles before pushing yourself too hard.

Use protective gear

During contact sports or activities with a high likelihood of falls, use protective gear to reduce the chance of ankle injury.

Ankle braces or supports can provide additional stability and reduce the risk of sprains or strains. Consult a sport medicine specialist to determine the best protective gear for your needs.

Maintain a healthy weight

Excess body weight puts stress on your ankles and can increase the risk of injury. Maintain a healthy weight with regular exercise and a balanced diet to reduce the strain on your joints.

Ankle injury care in the Triangle

Ankle injuries can significantly impact your mobility and quality of life, but recovery is possible with the right treatment. An ankle specialist will do an X-ray or MRI to determine the correct diagnosis.

At Cary Orthopaedic, our foot and ankle surgeons understand the complexities of ankle injuries. We provide comprehensive care to help you regain your strength and function after an injury. Contact us to make an appointment with one of our providers.