Painful, Unstable Ankle

Table of Contents

How People Describe This Pain Pattern

People often complain that they have twisted their ankle and wonder if it is sprained. It is painful and unstable. They associate it with stepping off a curb where the ball of the foot hits the curb, and the outside edge of the foot twists down. Others come in complaining that the ankle feels weak and painful. When asked about the pain, they usually trace around the back of their ankle.

An Actual Sprain

When there is an actual strain/sprain, there is usually swelling and some blood pooling along the edge of the foot. It looks like a weird bruise along the outside edge of the foot. There is often a bruise just above the ankle as well. Google “twisted ankle bruise,” and you’ll see that many people want to put a pic of this on the web, and they all look pretty similar. Your neuromuscular therapist will refer you to appropriate medical help if they suspect a sprained ankle.

When in doubt, Check it

Even though your ankle may not be sprained, this weakness can easily lead to an ankle sprain. Take care of it before it becomes worse. Left unchecked, this muscle will tighten on the peroneal nerve, causing foot drop. You’d first notice it as stubbing your toe on the carpet regularly, but it can become a serious problem.

How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern

Unstable footing

Typically, the painful, unstable ankle happens when they step off the curb so that the foot’s outside twists unexpectedly. I’ve only treated a few runway models who fell off spiky high heels. Most of these cases come from slipping off the curb’s edge, hiking, or other act of instability.


Often, this happens to people who hike the same path regularly but have a new pair of shoes. Consequently, they fret that they may need to get a new pair. That’s probably not necessary. It’s usually how the shoe straps across the top of the foot. Check the self-care post for a solution.

Getting Relief on Your Own

Clinically Proven
Self-Care Strategies

This post has strategies for getting relief on your own. Explore how to change your activities, stretching, and other strategies that relieve the pain associated with this trigger point.

Musculoskeletal Anatomy

About these Illustrations…

This post on anatomy contains standard information about the origin, insertion, function, and innervation of muscles. Additionally, it includes information on functional considerations and anomalies.

Find Related Posts

Anatomy posts have a grid of all related posts. This includes posts on pain patterns, self-care, therapy notes, NMT protocols, cranial techniques, and cases.

Therapy Notes for Massage and Bodywork

Better Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise

This post has strategies for getting relief on your own. Explore how to change your activities, stretch, and other strategies that relieve the pain associated with this trigger point.

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written materials and instructed classes since the mid-90s. This includes anatomy, trigger points, cranial, and neuromuscular.

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*This site is undergoing significant changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and include more patterns with better self-care. Meanwhile, there may be formatting, content presentation, and readability inconsistencies. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.

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