Ankle Locks When Walking

Runner with injured ankle
Close up of a person's ankle as they grasp it. (Image: pojoslaw/iStock/Getty Images)

An ankle that locks while you're walking can be a debilitating and painful condition that can make daily tasks or physical activity very difficult. A locking ankle can be a symptom of a variety of conditions. These include a ligament tear, ankle instability, arthritis, bone spurs and a condition known as osteochondritis dissecans. If you experience ankle locking as you walk, contact your doctor for a diagnosis.

Ankle Ligament Tears and Instability

Repeated ankle sprains or severe ankle sprains can take a toll on your ankle. When your ankle is turned or twisted outside of its normal range of motion, you may experience a ligament tear. Over time, this condition may become chronic and cause ankle instability. Ligament tears and ankle instability can cause pain, swelling, ankle locking, cracking and a feeling of instability during walking and other weight-bearing activities. This condition may be treated with rest, immobilization, an ankle brace, physical therapy and even surgery, as a last resort.

Ankle Arthritis

Ankle arthritis -- or degenerative joint disease -- can occur as the result of traumatic injury to the ankle or normal wear and tear as you age. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions your joints becomes worn. When the bones of your ankle begin to rub together, you may experience a variety of symptoms such as pain, swelling, limited range of motion and ankle locking. Ankle arthritis can be treated with footwear modification, an ankle brace, anti-inflammatory medications, weight loss, physical therapy and steroid injections. If conservative treatment fails, surgery is an option. Surgery can be performed to fuse your ankle joint, which will reduce pain.

Bone Spurs

Bone spurs are small, bone-like structures -- known as osteophytes -- that can develop on the edges of your bones as well as where your ligaments and tendons connect to your bones. Bone spurs can form in the ankle and heal and lead to a locking ankle. Other symptoms of a bone spur can include pain and a limited range of motion. According to MayoClinic.com, individuals can go many years without experiencing pain or locking caused by a bone spur. Treatment for bone spurs is limited. Anti-inflammatory medication can help to ease your pain. Surgery can be performed to remove the bone spur.

Osteochondritis Dissecans

Osteochondritis dissecans is a condition that causes reduced blood flow to the end portion of a bone -- including the bones of your ankle. Blood flow is reduced as a result of a piece of cartilage becoming loose at the end of a bone. This condition is particularly common following an ankle injury. Symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans can include pain, ankle locking, swelling, tenderness, limited range of motion and a feeling of instability in the joint. Conservative measures are first tried when dealing with osteochondritis dissecans. Your doctor may recommend rest -- including using crutches or avoiding high-impact activities. Physical therapy may also be prescribed to help increase strength and range of motion. If conservative measures fail, surgery can be performed to remove loose fragments of bone and cartilage.

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