Running With a Swollen Ankle

As a runner I can get away with saying this:  Runners aren’t normal.  Admit it because we all know it’s true.  Veteran distance runners and non-runners alike would agree.

When most individuals with a swollen or painful joint would shut it down, start taking medicine and put the outcome of the injury in the hands of  a doctor.  Runner for some reason, be it passion or stupidity, usually try to “run through it”.

Runners with an arthritic ankle or joint effusion, in most cases, will not help the situation.  Unlike a knee or shoulder, swelling in the ankle is less obvious.  It will show itself as stiffness and limited range of motion.

The first step is determine the source of the swollen ankle with its pain and limited range of motion.  A quick visit to a certified athletic trainer is a great start.  A 3 minute exam with an ATC will help determine if the issue is within the joint, a muscle/tendon issue or a capsule/ligament problem.  All 3 require different treatments and have varied outcomes.

If it’s determined it’s a joint problem, getting to an ankle doctor such as a orthopedist or podiatrist is the next step.  As expected, an x-ray is in order.  The biggest concern is arthritic changes or a fracture within the joint surface.

Most ankle problems for runners are related to soft-tissue issues such as tight Achilles/calves, plantar fasciitis, stiff ankle capsules and/or weak arches.

Assuming the fractures and bad arthritis is not the reason, the typical solution for a swollen ankle: Downward Dog stretches, toes exercises to strength the arch, easy & short barefoot strides on grass 2x/wk, calf & arch massages, isolated strengthening exercises for the FRONT of the shins and icing after runs.  As you know, I’m not a big fan of meds….but a few Advils here and then will help.

In summary, see your friendly certified athletic trainer to rule out the bad stuff, loosen the tight things up, strengthen the muscles up and quiet down the warm stuff.  It’s time for a run….