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Ankle Pain Without Swelling: What’s Going On?

Ankle Pain Without Swelling: What’s Going On?


Ankles play a crucial role in our daily movements, providing stability and support. However, when ankle pain without swelling strikes, it can be perplexing and uncomfortable. In this blog, we’ll explore the anatomy of the ankle, common causes of pain without swelling, associated symptoms, and insights into diagnosis, home management, professional help, and preventive measures.

Understanding Your Ankle: A Brief Anatomy

Let’s delve into the specific components that contribute to its function and explore how issues with these components can lead to various forms of ankle injury.

Basic Structure of the Ankle

Before we explore the causes of why the ankle hurts, it’s essential to understand the basic anatomy of the ankle. The ankle joint comprises bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles working harmoniously to facilitate movement and maintain stability.

Role of Different Components in Movement and Stability

In dissecting the anatomy of the ankle, consider the distinctive roles each component plays:

  • Ligaments: Resembling robust ropes, ligaments crisscross around the joint, furnishing a critical framework for stability.
  • Tendons: Serving as bridges, tendons connect muscles to bones, facilitating the seamless transmission of force.
  • Muscles: Functioning as dynamic engines, muscles are the driving force behind the ankle’s intricate dance of movement.

Common Causes of Ankle Pain Without Swelling

Chronic Strains and Sprains

Common Causes of Ankle Pain Without Swelling

Old injuries such as muscle or ligament strains, ankle sprains, and conditions like flat feet are common culprits behind non-swollen ankle pain. Overstretching or tearing of these tissues can lead to discomfort and if left untreated for longer than a month, they can cause persistent pain without swelling..

Overuse Injuries

Excessive use, repetitive motions, or prolonged stress on the ankle can result in joint pain without noticeable swelling. Additionally, severe cases may involve issues such as ankle fractures or soft tissue injuries, leading to discomfort and requiring prompt medical attention. Ankle fractures & soft tissue injuries are more likely to cause noticeable swelling.

Nerve Compression or Damage

Nerves around the ankle can become compressed or damaged, causing sudden ankle pain. This may be due to various factors, such as improper footwear, existing health conditions, or an autoimmune condition.


Arthritis can affect the ankle joint, leading to pain without the typical swelling seen in other conditions. In the U.S., about 21.2% of adults, roughly 53.2 million people, have arthritis. This condition is a major reason for work disability.


Gout, a type of arthritis, can cause sudden and severe pain in the ankle, even in the absence of swelling. Gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis affecting the foot and ankle, affecting about 9.2 million people in the U.S.

Symptoms Associated with Non-Swollen Ankle Pain

It is imperative to recognize the telltale signs to decode the nuances of ankle distress lacking visible swelling. These indicators serve as vital clues for an accurate diagnosis:

Localized Discomfort: Unlike a diffuse ache, non-swollen ankle pain manifests in specific areas. Identifying the precise location of discomfort becomes an essential aspect of understanding and addressing the issue.

Tenderness: The affected area may exhibit heightened sensitivity to touch, indicating internal inflammation or irritation. Tenderness becomes a noteworthy symptom in the absence of overt swelling, signalling potential issues with healthy tissue in the ankle.

Difficulty Bearing Weight: An unmistakable sign of non-swollen ankle pain is the challenge of bearing weight on the affected foot. This difficulty can range from mild discomfort to significant impairment, impacting daily activities.

Diagnosing Ankle Pain: What to Expect

Diagnosing Ankle Pain: What to Expect

When seeking professional guidance for ankle pain, anticipate a comprehensive diagnostic approach. Medical professionals utilize a range of methods to unravel the mystery behind the discomfort. Here’s what to expect:

Physical Examinations

A hands-on evaluation is often the initial step. The healthcare provider examines the affected ankle, assessing mobility, tenderness, and range of motion. This aids in identifying potential sources of foot pain. Additionally, the examination helps rule out or identify types of arthritis that may contribute to the discomfort.

Imaging Studies

Techniques such as X-rays, MRIs, or C.T. scans may be employed to obtain detailed images of the ankle’s internal structures. These imaging studies offer a visual roadmap, unveiling any abnormalities or structural issues contributing to the pain.

Laboratory Tests

In certain cases, blood tests may be recommended to rule out systemic conditions, such as gout, which could be causing ankle pain, particularly in severe injury situations. Additionally, these tests help in excluding other potential causes like bacterial infection.

Preventing Future Ankle Pain

Select Supportive Footwear: Opt for comfortable shoes that provide adequate support and fit properly, ensuring ease during normal activities. If needed, consider using orthotics for additional support.

Prioritize Ankle Strength: Include exercises that focus on strengthening and stabilizing the muscles around your ankles. Emphasize flexibility exercises to enhance overall joint health and consider consulting a professional for a personalized therapy plan.

Be Mindful of Terrain and Activity: Exercise caution on uneven surfaces to prevent twists or falls. Wear suitable footwear based on the type of activity you’re engaged in, ensuring optimal support for your ankle movements.

Maintain Healthy Habits: Stay hydrated, incorporate regular stretching into your routine, and ensure you include rest days for recovery. These self-care measures contribute to maintaining a healthy weight and supporting overall joint health.

Managing Ankle Pain at Home: Do’s and Don’ts

Effectively addressing ankle pain with no swelling from the comfort of your home involves a strategic approach. Here are the key do’s and don’ts for home management:


  • Rest: Allow your ankle time to heal by minimizing weight-bearing activities.
  • Ice or Heat: Apply ice or heat to the affected area to decrease pain when flare ups occur. Depending on the problem, your ankle may like either, so choose whichever feels best to your ankle.
  • Compression: Utilize compression bandages to provide support and minimize increased swelling.
  • Appropriate Exercises: Engage in gentle ankle exercises as prescribed by a healthcare professional to maintain flexibility and strengthen supportive muscles. This will help you return to regular activity the fastest.


  • Don’t Push Through Pain: Don’t push through more than mild pain with activities around the house or exercise. Pushing through a 3/10 pain will increase your likelihood for worsening injury & pain.
  • Avoid Prolonged Standing or Walking: Minimize activities that strain the affected ankle excessively.
  • Avoid Tight Compression: While compression is beneficial, ensure it’s snug but not excessively tight to prevent circulation issues.

See Inside Track Physical Therapy & Wellness for Professional Help

For individuals seeking expert guidance and tailored intervention in managing ankle pain without swelling, the specialized care provided by our professionals at Inside Track Physical Therapy & Wellness can make a significant difference. Our expertise in physical therapy treatment ensures a targeted approach, aiming not only to alleviate immediate discomfort but also to address the root causes, promoting long-term ankle health and functionality.


Ankle pain without swelling can have various causes, and understanding the underlying factors is essential for effective management. By incorporating a combination of home care, professional guidance, and preventive measures, individuals can regain comfort and prevent future episodes.


Q1: What causes ankle pain without injury?

A1: Ankle pain without injury may stem from overuse, nerve issues, arthritis, or gout, leading to discomfort, sharp pain, or even a sprained ankle. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis may also contribute to these common symptoms, emphasizing the need for expert evaluation.

Q2: How do you treat ankle pain naturally?

A2: Natural remedies for ankle pain include rest, ice or heat, compression, , gentle exercises, and over-the-counter pain relievers. However, consulting a healthcare professional for personalized advice is recommended, as they may suggest specific interventions for more effective relief.

Q3: Is pain in the ankle serious?

A3: While temporary ankle pain can be minor, persistent or severe pain may signal an underlying issue. Seeking professional evaluation ensures accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, especially for those dealing with discomfort where the ankle hurts but is not swollen, as it could indicate an underlying autoimmune disease.

A woman standing in a grassy field.

Dr. Jaime Applegate

Inside Track Physical Therapy

If You Want To Be Active, But You're In Pain, We Can Help!