There are many anatomical structures that can be injured within the ankle, either by themselves or together. Most people describe ankle pain being focused either behind, in front or to either side of the ankle, where the lower leg meets the foot. Podiatrists are specifically trained to deal with ankle injuries in all forms, either chronic or acute.
Anterior (front) Ankle Pain
The most common causes of pain at the front of the ankle are due to inversion ankle sprains. Inversion ankle sprains are when the foot rolls inwardly with the sole facing towards the other foot due to over balancing of a person’s weight to the outside of the leg. Many sportspeople call this a “rolled ankle”. The ligaments that hold the ankle together are vulnerable to injury, sprain or tear depending on the severity of this type of movement. If the injury results in swelling or bruising you should seek medical opinion immediately.
Other injuries can involve kicking the ground instead of the ball during a football game, slipping on uneven or unsteady surfaces, or direct external trauma like dropping something on the area, being kicked or in a motor vehicle accident.
Lateral/Medial (side) Ankle Pain
Many of the mechanisms of injury that cause anterior ankle pain begin either on the outside or the inside of the ankle joint. The ligaments responsible for bracing the ankle joint during activity are very strong and are the last fail safe after the muscles have given their best efforts in resisting any dangerous movement. Again, the most common type of lateral or medial ankle injury is the dreaded “rolled ankle”, however there are many more including the “high heel stumble”, stepping off the side of a step or ledge or direct external trauma like seen in slide tackles in soccer or when landing on a foot from a jump during basketball/netball.
View some of the injury mechanisms by clicking on the following YouTube links:
Posterior (back) Ankle Pain
This pain is most commonly Achilles tendinitis, however there are specific joint injuries that can occur within the ankle as well. Achilles tendinitis presents as a focal pain within the tendon itself and is often accompanied by a swelling of the tendon. This is classified as an overuse injury which means the tendon has had to deal with more work than it is used to. This can be because the patient has either taken on too much mileage with their running or walking without working up to it or they may be carrying too much weight. There are also many other reasons that require diagnosis by a podiatrist or other foot and ankle specialist your podiatrist may refer you to.