Ankle swelling can be an unfortunate side effect of your workout. Although the swelling may not be due to an underlying injury, it can cause discomfort and difficulty moving your ankle or ankles properly. You can use over-the-counter solutions to treat ankle swelling and prevent future swelling incidences. Always speak to your physician, however, if your ankle swelling does not improve with time or continues to occur because it may signal an underlying medical condition.
Determine the Cause
Your ankles become swollen because fluid pools in your ankles and feet, causing your skin to swell. The swelling can place extra pressure on your blood vessels, contributing to pain and affecting blood flow to your ankles and feet. If your ankle swelling is exercise related, it could be due to trauma to your feet, such as constant pounding when running. Other causes include inflammation in the ankle joints or tendinitis in the tendon that runs behind your ankle, according to Cathy Fieseler, MD, a physician writing in “Running Times” magazine. Ankle swelling can sometimes be the sign of an underlying injury, such as a stress fracture or small break in your ankle bone. You may wish to see your physician if you are concerned your ankle swelling is due to an injury.
Physicians and physical therapists often use the PRICE method to care for swollen ankles, according to Matthew Gloin, MD, a physician writing on Outsports.com. This acronym stands for protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Protection involves applying a splint that provides stability to the ankle and rest means keeping weight off your swollen ankle. Icing the ankle for 20 minutes at a time and 20 minutes of rest also can help shrink inflamed blood vessels to reduce swelling. Wrapping an elastic bandage around your ankle can help promote fluid return, as can elevation. Lift your ankle higher than your heart to encourage fluid return and to stop swelling.
Check Your Shoes
Too-tight workout shoes can be another ankle-swelling culprit, according to Go Ask Alice!, a health and wellness website from Columbia University. If your shoes are too small or laced too tightly, they can inhibit fluid and blood flow to your feet. Socks that are too tight also can affect your circulation, leading to swelling. Adjusting your shoes and socks can help prevent future episodes of ankle swelling post-exercise.
Switch Up Your Exercise
Exercise can be a good thing if you experience chronic ankle swelling because it boosts your circulation. However, if you do the same exercise over and over, this can increase your risk for stress fractures and inflammation that lead to ankle swelling. To prevent and stop ankle swelling, switch up your exercise routine by alternating high-impact exercises such as running with low-impact exercises such as swimming. Giving yourself rest breaks between exercise sessions also can help minimize swelling and prevent overuse injuries.