Treating Ankle Pain and Stiffness

Posted by Stuart Hinds on

Stuart Hinds demonstrates treatment for ankle pain and stiffness


If left untreated, ankle pain and stiffness can become the cause of more serious pain disorders of the hip and knee.

It's pretty common for all runners (not just athletes) to develop trigger points in the muscles of the leg and foot.

Trigger points in the ankles not only refer pain but by making their host muscles shorter and less efficient, they may often become the root-cause of many common knee, hip and pelvis injuries.

When treating clients (especially those who run on hard surfaces), it's important to check for even the smallest signs of ankle pain and/or stiffness.

Don't overlook the small superficial muscles of the foot and ankle.


Peroneal Trigger Points 


Peroneal Tendinitis

The tendons of peroneus longus and peroneus brevis run from the peroneal muscles in the lateral calf to the foot.

The peroneal muscles are involved in stabilizing the foot and providing support to the ankle to prevent lateral rolling of the joint. Peroneal tendinitis is most commonly a result of overuse of the peroneal muscles or of inversion sprains which stretch the peroneal tendons.

It can be caused by excessive pronation of the foot as the peroneal muscles have to work harder to stabilize the foot when it is pronated.

Running and jumping involve repeated contraction of the peroneal muscles and can lead to inflammation of their tendons.

Runners who often run on uneven surfaces or have excessive pronation often develop peroneal tendinitis.


Peroneal Muscles Trigger Points


Cause of injury

Over-pronation of the foot during running or jumping. Prior ankle injury leading to an incorrect path of travel for the tendons.


Signs and symptoms

Pain and tenderness along the tendons. Pain is most severe at the beginning of the activity and diminishes as the activity continues. There's a gradual increase in pain over time.


Complications if left unattended

Unattended tendinitis can lead to a complete rupture of the tendons. Peroneal tendinitis can lead to subluxations.

The chronic inflammation can also lead to damage to the ligaments surrounding the tendons.

Over time, the body will trigger holding patterns as a response to the injury.

These holding patterns may manifest in active trigger points in the muscles of the hip and leg, and may, in turn, lead to further seemingly unconnected complications of the hip and knee.


Immediate treatment

Rest, especially from running or jumping activities. Ice. Anti-inflammatory medication.


Rehabilitation and prevention

Stretching of the calf muscles and a gradual reintroduction into activity is important for rehabilitation.

During the recovery period, it is important to identify and correct any foot or gait abnormalities that may be contributing to the problem.

Prevention of this condition requires strong, flexible muscles of the lower leg to support the foot and ankle.


Long-term prognosis

With proper treatment, peroneal tendinitis will usually heal completely with no lingering effects.

In rare cases, the tendinitis may not respond to traditional treatment and may require surgical intervention to relieve the pressure causing the inflammation. Orthotics to support the medial arch may be required in some cases.


Trigger Points

Trigger points in the peroneal muscles tend to refer pain down the leg over, above, and behind the lateral malleolus (the bony prominence on each side of the ankle).

Pain can also be felt over the anterolateral aspect of the ankle and the outside of the calcaneus (heel bone).

Clients with these trigger points often complain of numbness or pins and needles in the toes, especially the third, fourth, and great toes.

Whilst trigger points in the peroneal muscles may be a causative factor in peroneal tendinitis, it is important also to identify and treat trigger points in all the muscles of the leg and foot.


Treating Runner's Knee NAT Foundation Course


Taping for Trigger Points NAT Foundation Course


About the author

Stuart Hinds is one of Australia’s leading soft tissue therapists, with over 27 years of experience as a practitioner, working with elite sports athletes, supporting Olympic teams, educating and mentoring others as well as running a highly successful clinic in Geelong.

Stuart has a strong following of practitioners across Australia and globally who tap into his expertise as a soft-tissue specialist. He delivers a range of highly sought after seminars across Australia, supported by online videos, webinars and one-on-one mentoring to help support his colleagues to build successful businesses.

In 2016, Stuart was awarded a lifetime membership to Massage & Myotherapy Australia for his significant support and contribution to the industry.


Tess Kirsopp-Cole (featured in this video) is Australia's current U18 National 400meter Champion


This trigger point therapy blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell. 

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