Ankle Stiffness Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your ankle stiffness symptoms, including 6 causes & common questions.

  1. 6 Possible Ankle Stiffness Causes
  2. Real-Life Stories
  3. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  4. Statistics
  5. Related Articles

6 Possible Ankle Stiffness Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced ankle stiffness. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Ankle arthritis

Arthritis simply means inflammation of the joints. Because the feet and ankles have many small joints and carry the weight of the body, they are often the first place that arthritis appears.

Arthritis is caused by a breakdown in the protective cartilage at the end of each joint, so that the bones begin to wear against each other and the joint becomes stiff and painful. This breakdown may be due to simple wear and tear; an injury; or from rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition which causes the body to break down its own cartilage.

Symptoms include swelling, warmth, and redness in the joint, and pain with movement or with pressure on the joint.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and imaging such as x-rays, CT scan, or MRI.

There is no cure for arthritis, but treatment is important because the symptoms can be managed to prevent further damage, ease pain, and improve quality of life. Treatment involves physical therapy, pain-relieving medications, and sometimes surgery to help repair damaged joints.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: swollen ankle, swollen foot, joint stiffness, pain in one ankle, ankle stiffness

Urgency: Self-treatment

Rheumatoid arthritis

Arthritis is a general term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness throughout the body. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition that is autoimmune in nature, meaning that the body's immune system which normally protects the body by att...

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Septic arthritis

Septic arthritis is also called infectious arthritis. "Arthritis" simply means inflammation of a joint. In septic arthritis, the inflammation is caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. The most common is Staphylococcus aureus or staph. These agents reach the joints either from ...

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Ankle Stiffness Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your ankle stiffness

Osteochondritis dissecans

Osteochondritis dissecans, also called OCD, is a joint condition. It occurs when there is not enough blood flow within the end of a bone, under the protective cartilage. These bone layers begin to die and separate from the main bone, taking the cartilage with them.

The exact cause is not known. It may be due to overtraining a young person before the bone is entirely mature, which can interfere with blood supply.

Most susceptible are children and teenagers. The condition is found most often in only one joint, usually the ankle, knee, or elbow. However, any joint can be affected and there may be more than one.

Symptoms include swelling and pain in the joint during exercise, and sometimes "locking" of the joint. Osteochondritis dissecans may lead to osteoarthritis if not treated.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and imaging.

Treatment first involves rest because in children who are still growing, the bone and cartilage may heal spontaneously. If there are loose pieces of bone within a joint, surgery may be necessary.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: pain in one knee, knee stiffness, knee instability, knee pain that gets worse during a run, pop in the knee

Urgency: Primary care doctor


Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden pain, stiffness, and swelling in a joint. The big toe is often affected.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: swollen toes

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis is a condition which causes inflammation of the joints. In most circumstances, psoriatic arthritis presents between the ages of 30 and 50 years and occurs after the manifestation of the symptoms of psoriasis, which is a disease of the skin. Psoriatic arthritis...

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Real-life Stories

Once your story is reviewed and approved by our editors, it will live on Buoy as a helpful resource for anyone who may be dealing with something similar. If you want to learn more, try Buoy Assistant.

The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.

Submitted Stories

Tendonitis in the foot?

I am a 58-year-old female. I developed pain on the top of my right foot that I suspect was tendonitist. This pain has segued into pain in my arch and stiffness in my ankles. Is this arthritis and, if it is, why the sudden onset?

Read More ...

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Ankle Stiffness

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Do you have multiple joints that are stiff?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Have you had night sweats?
  • Is your ankle able to move in all directions like it used to?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Ankle Stiffness Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your ankle stiffness

Ankle Stiffness Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced ankle stiffness have also experienced:

  • 9% Ankle Pain
  • 6% Swollen Ankle
  • 6% Pain In One Ankle

People who have experienced ankle stiffness were most often matched with:

  • 60% Septic Arthritis
  • 30% Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • 10% Ankle Arthritis

People who have experienced ankle stiffness had symptoms persist for:

  • 49% Over a month
  • 17% Less than a week
  • 16% Less than a day

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Ankle Stiffness Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your ankle stiffness

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