It goes without saying that the most common kind of problem people have with their ankles is the pain and immobility that comes after a sprained ankle. There are also those us who are unfortunate enough to have stubborn ankle pain without an immediate sprain injury.
I meet heaps of people who haven’t got a sprained ankle, but who do experience ongoing sharp pain in their ankle that comes and goes. Many of those who suffer from this kind of ankle pain find that they have good and bad days or good and bad periods. Others with this type of sharp ankle pain that comes and goes find that it has certain triggers which can relate to certain activities or movements. Many who have sharp ankle pain that comes and goes have no obvious swelling. People with this kind of ankle pain have often sprained or rolled ankles in the past.
This type of sharp ankle pain that comes and goes can be so sharp and ‘stabby’ or ‘twingy’ that it’s easy to wonder if something is seriously wrong. We all know that sharp ankle pain can be a sign that something is torn. While tears can definitely be a cause of sharp ankle pain that comes and goes there is a much more likely cause hidden away in the soft tissue of the ankle.
By far the most common cause of sharp ankle pain that comes and goes is scar tissue at the outside of the ankle!
Causes of scar tissue in the ankle include problems with the way your ankle moves, problems related to high arches, problems with flat feet or a history of ankle sprains. You can develop microscopic scar tissue build up in the soft tissues of the ankle in different ways. Scar tissue that causes sharp ankle pain to come and go can develop through repetitive strain or through specific injury.
If you have a microscopic scar tissue build up in your ankle you can develop a kind of ‘catchy’ ‘irritable’ scenario where the ankle finds certain movement irritating. Scar tissue build up causes irritation to the surrounding soft tissue which then leads to sharp pain in the ankle that comes and goes.
Some people find the scar tissue that causes their sharp ankle pain doesn’t like mileage and will hurt during or after they run or walk longer distances. Some people find that the scar tissue that causes their sharp ankle pain to come and go doesn’t like certain types of activity, certain specific movements, certain types of running surfaces or certain types of footwear. Sharp ankle pain that comes and goes can get to the point where it even hurts at rest, but most people find it is only when they are actually putting weight through the foot.
Pain that relates to a tear in the ankle is often more constant than the type of ankle pain that comes and goes. Ankle pain from a tear will also often have some swelling that goes along with it. The waters can get a little more murky when you consider the fact that both a tear and some scar tissue can come from an initial injury, and also that you could have some combination of a tear and scar tissue that causes sharp pain to come and go.
Basically if you have a tear it will almost certainly have started with a pretty significant tear or sprain that took a long time to settle down, and which feels like it never healed. The reality is you won’t be able to know for sure whether you have a tear or scar tissue causing your ankle pain unless you have someone who knows how to tell the difference have a look for you. The good news is that scar tissue is WAY more common than tears.
This post could and should open your eyes to the possibility of scar tissue in your ankle that causes sharp pain to come and go. Don’t be too tempted to get into self diagnosis though, the subtleties that distinguish a bit of scar tissue causing sharp pain to come and go versus more serious issues are for the professionals. The other reason to seek professional help is the fact that scar tissue in the ankle causing sharp pain to come and go can frequently be treated very easily. The need for professional advice is often imperative if you want good outcomes in the longer term. My team and I would love to help.