Understanding Fibromyalgia Ankle Pain: Symptoms, Management, & Relief Strategies

Does chronic ankle pain disrupt your daily routine? Fibromyalgia can often manifest in the ankles, so in this article, we dive deep into understanding fibromyalgia ankle pain.

We will explore what may be causing it and effective strategies to manage the symptoms. This guide will empower you with the knowledge to manage your symptoms without all the confusion.

What causes fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that is often traced back to a phenomenon known as central sensitization. This is a state where the nervous system is excessively sensitive, resulting in widespread pain throughout the body.

However, fibromyalgia's effects are not limited to physical discomfort. It can drain your energy, disrupt your sleep, and lead to feelings of anxiety or depression.

Imagine your body as a hypersensitive security system, misinterpreting various bodily signals as threats, causing pain in multiple areas such as the neck, shoulders, back, and hips, and extending to your arms and legs.

What is the link between fibromyalgia & ankle pain?

Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by foot and ankle pain, which is reported by approximately 50% of those diagnosed with the condition.

Fibromyalgia ankle pain may manifest differently from other types of ankle pain. Symptoms related to fibromyalgia in the feet and ankle include:

  • a sense of swelling
  • a burning sensation
  • persistent soreness
  • inflammation in various areas of the foot, including the soles, tops, and sides.

The impact of altered gait on ankle discomfort

You may notice that your walking pattern is different with fibromyalgia. You might walk slower and keep your feet on the ground longer with each step. Because of these changes, you may use your hip flexors more than necessary, increasing energy expenditure and contributing to the ankle pain you are experiencing. Without proper management, persistent ankle pain can cause lasting changes in your gait, potentially leading to other body issues.

Tight calves & their role in ankle pain

Increased muscle tension, particularly in the calf region is another common cause of ankle pain. This heightened tension can adversely affect your gait, placing undue stress on your ankle joints. The resulting discomfort in the ankles is due to the restricted movement of the tight calf muscles.

It is essential to understand that muscle stiffness can be more pronounced in people with fibromyalgia when compared to the general population. Engaging in regular stretching exercises may alleviate some of the discomfort in the ankles.

Referred pain in fibromyalgia

Referred pain is a common issue for those with fibromyalgia, often causing discomfort in areas that are not the source of the pain. The sensation of pain in the ankle could actually be stemming from other parts of the body such as the lower back, hips, knees, or feet.

Studies have found that applying pressure to certain trigger points can lead to the experience of pain in fibromyalgia patients. This suggests that what is perceived as ankle pain could actually be pain originating from the fascia in the feet. This makes diagnosing and treating ankle pain in fibromyalgia patients complicated, as pinpointing the exact cause of pain requires careful consideration of various factors.

Ankle pain as a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis

It's crucial to also consider rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as a potential cause. RA is an autoimmune disease where your body's defense system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. This attack causes inflammation, leading to painful swelling in the affected areas. It often targets joints like hands, wrists, and knees, but ankles are also susceptible.

RA can coexist with fibromyalgia, and when they exist together they can amplify joint pain and discomfort. This happens because both conditions heighten the body's sensitivity to pain. One common symptom of this double whammy is swelling, pain, and stiffness in the ankles.

When to consult a podiatrist for fibromyalgia ankle pain

If you're experiencing persistent pain in your feet, ankles, or toes that throws off your balance or makes moving around a challenge, it might not be just your fibromyalgia acting up. You could also have a flat feet issue.

Here's why seeing a podiatrist is a smart move:

  • A podiatrist can assess if flat feet are contributing to your fibromyalgia pain. They have the expertise to diagnose this common condition.
  • Beyond flat feet, podiatrists can address a variety of foot woes that might be lurking beneath the surface, such as ingrown toenails, bunions, heel spurs, and hammertoes. Each has its own treatment plan, and a podiatrist can create one specifically for you.

Addressing foot problems early can not only bring immediate relief but also prevent future complications that could seriously impact your mobility and quality of life.

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How to treat fibromyalgia-related ankle pain

Managing fibromyalgia foot pain effectively involves a comprehensive strategy that tackles both the physiological aspects of the disorder and its psychological impact to optimize treatment results.

Strengthen your ankle with exercises

Specific exercises can help manage pain and improve overall ankle function. Here are a few moves to incorporate into your daily routine:

  • Boost mobility with the "toes alphabet": This playful exercise involves spelling out letters of the alphabet with your toes, increasing range of motion in your ankles.
  • Strengthen your foundation with isometric eversion: This targeted exercise helps build strength in your foot and ankle muscles, providing a solid base for movement.
  • Improve flexibility and movement: Ankle dorsiflexion self mobilization (also called "mobilization with movement dorsiflexion on a step") sounds complicated but simply involves standing up and putting one foot on a chair (sole down). Place your hands on your thigh and gently lunge forward, keeping your foot flat. This stretches your calves and improves ankle mobility.
  • Double down on flexibility with seated heel raises: This exercise not only strengthens your calves but also increases ankle flexibility for better overall movement.
  • Advanced option, star excursion balance exercise: Take your training to the next level with this exercise that significantly improves both balance and stability in your ankles.

Choose the correct footwear

Shoes with good arch support and cushioning can be a game-changer by reducing stress on your joints.

Here's how the right footwear helps:

  • Distributes weight evenly: Imagine your weight being evenly spread across your feet instead of concentrated on pressure points. That's the magic of proper arch support!
  • Less impact, more comfort: Cushioned soles absorb shock from walking and standing, taking the strain off your ankles.
  • Keeps other issues at bay: Well-fitting shoes prevent blisters and bunions, which can worsen fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Balance is key: A wide toe box allows your toes to spread naturally, which can improve your balance and stability.

Manage your weight

Weight can be a sensitive topic, but it can impact on your symptoms.

Fibromyalgia can make you more sedentary, or it might cause tummy troubles and fatigue, which can all affect our weight in different ways. Studies show that a large number of people with fibromyalgia also find it challenging to maintain a healthy weight; lots of us carrying a bit extra, and some of us could do with a little more! That in turn can add some burden to the ankles and feet.

A balanced diet and regular exercise can help ease the additional stress on these areas, potentially reducing pain. It's important to consult healthcare professionals, such as your doctor of a registered nutritionist, and fitness experts who can develop a personalized plan for you to manage your weight effectively.

Retraining your pain response

At MoreGoodDays®, our expertise in pain retraining can significantly lessen the intensity, occurrence, and overall effect of your pain and related symptoms. Effective management of your fibromyalgia is likely to result in reduced foot pain, considering the interconnected nature of the body.

Our approach is grounded in the biopsychosocial model of pain, recognizing that pain encompasses physical, psychological, emotional, and social dimensions.

Through our comprehensive program, you will gain an understanding of pain's complexities and learn how stress, personal beliefs, and behaviors can impact your pain experience. Employing techniques that leverage the brain's ability to adapt, known as neuroplasticity, we provide actionable methods, including:

  • Psychological and stress management techniques: These will equip you with strategies to cope and regulate your nervous system, which can enhance pain control and overall wellbeing.
  • Sleep management: Identifying and managing fatigue triggers and activity levels can improve your energy management. Good sleep hygiene practices are also encouraged to foster restorative sleep, aiding in pain relief.

At MoreGoodDays®, we prioritize personalized support to navigate the intricacies of fibromyalgia. Our team is committed to offering tailored guidance to help you apply strategies that meet your specific requirements.

Medicinal interventions for immediate relief

Medications are best utilized as a supplementary component to a multifaceted pain management approach, rather than the sole treatment option.

Temporary alleviation of discomfort may be achieved with common analgesics such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Your healthcare provider might also recommend a variety of prescription drugs to form a comprehensive plan aimed at mitigating your pain.

These pharmacological treatments can bolster the effectiveness of your psychological or exercise regimens, ultimately contributing to sustained enhancements in both your pain perception and overall physical condition.

Additional measures & preventive actions for foot & ankle pain management

Discovering an effective treatment for your fibromyalgia-related foot pain may require patience, but the pursuit of comfort is a worthy endeavor. When paired with additional therapies such as regular exercise, the benefits of these treatments can become more pronounced.

You might consider the following home treatments and complementary therapies:

  1. Acupuncture: Regular acupuncture sessions may reduce your pain and improve sleep quality, contributing to an enhanced sense of wellbeing.
  2. Warm foot baths: Soaking your feet in warm water, with the option to add Epsom salt or as recommended by a foot care specialist, can offer relief. The practice of alternating between warm and cold water can also ease muscle pain by encouraging blood circulation in the affected areas.
  3. Orthopedic footwear: Discuss the use of custom orthotics and supportive footwear with your foot care specialist. This is essential in managing pain and reducing the frequency of painful episodes, particularly if you have structural foot issues like plantar fasciitis or overpronation. Wearing supportive footwear, even indoors, may prevent pain onset, especially if you are prone to discomfort when barefoot.

More information & support

For more information and support, fill out our suitability survey or get in touch. We can help you to work towards reducing pain severity, flare-up frequency, and emotional distress.