Stiff Ankle Treatment Options: Improve Your Stability and Mobility

Apr 15, 2024
Stiff Ankle Treatment Options: Improve Your Stability and Mobility
It’s easy to take your ankles for granted — until they start causing you problems. If you have ankle stiffness, prompt medical treatment can help prevent complications leading to long-term disability. Here’s how we can help.

Ankle stiffness can have different causes, but regardless of the underlying problems, one thing remains: Ankle stiffness can take a big toll on your comfort and mobility.

At Forward Foot & Ankle, our team uses advanced therapies to improve ankle flexibility and function, focusing on an individualized, patient-centered approach for maximum benefits. If you’re dealing with a stiff ankle (or two), these therapies might be what you’re looking for.

Why your ankle feels stiff

Your ankles are subject to the same types of injuries and symptoms that can affect your knees, elbows, shoulders, and other joints. Arthritis is one of the most common causes of ankle stiffness, especially among older people who lead active lives, which puts a lot of stress on the ankle joints.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, occurring when repetitive stress on the ankle causes the protective cartilage layer to wear down, exposing the joint to increased friction and inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis is another cause of ankle stiffness, happening when your immune system attacks and destroys healthy joint cartilage.

Ankle stiffness can also be caused by very tight tendons or tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendons that support ankle movement. Ankle sprains or ligament strains can also cause stiffness.

In addition to joint stiffness, many people experience additional symptoms, such as:

  • Ankle pain
  • Ankle swelling
  • Clicking or snapping noises when moving the ankle
  • Pain when walking
  • Tenderness when touching or pressing the joint

The type of symptoms you experience and their severity depend a lot on the underlying cause, but delaying medical treatment can also make symptoms worse — and even lead to permanent disability.

Treating a stiff ankle

Except in obvious cases of severe injuries, our team typically begins treatment with conservative options, like rest, over-the-counter medication, and ice packs to relieve inflammation and discomfort. Using a compression bandage or an ankle brace provides additional support while reducing instability that can lead to falls or more joint damage.

Many patients benefit from physical therapy incorporating special stretches and exercises to improve movement and spur natural healing. In addition to on-site therapy options, at-home exercises can also improve joint movement.

When noninvasive methods fail to provide relief, we may recommend injections to relieve inflammation and enhance healing responses. For more severe problems, minimally invasive ankle surgery is especially useful for repairing damaged tendons or ligaments and removing damaged tissue.

Don’t let ankle problems hold you back

Ankle stiffness may be common, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it. To learn more about treatment options that can restore normal, pain-free movement in your ankles, request an appointment online or over the phone with the Forward Foot & Ankle team in Midtown Manhattan and Staten Island, New York, today.