What to do if you’re waking up with stiff ankles in the morning

Stiff ankles in the morning can make it difficult to do nearly any everyday task. From walking to the shower to making breakfast, if you know you’re going to be dealing with ankle stiffness, you may not even want to get out of bed. 

About 1 in 4 Americans are affected by joint stiffness. Many of these people experience stiffness when they wake up in the morning, but for several different reasons. To learn more about causes of stiffness and best treatment options, keep reading below.

Why might my ankles be feeling stiff when I wake up?

  • Arthritis — Stiffness in both of your ankles means it’s more likely that the underlying cause is a natural, age-related condition such as arthritis. An estimated 58.8 million people in the U.S. have it. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints and can be a source of pain for people with this condition. Symptoms of pain or stiffness caused by arthritis may be more pronounced during the morning.
  • Achilles tendinitis — Another common cause of stiff ankles is Achilles tendinitis. If your stiffness is mostly present in only one of your ankles, Achilles tendinitis may be to blame. The inflammation of the tendon can become worse after a night of little to no movement.
  • Ankle sprain — If you’ve recently suffered or are recovering from an ankle sprain, your ankles will probably feel very stiff and also painful when you first get out of bed.
  • Aging — Many people experience stiffness in their ankles simply as a result of the aging process. Over time, the cartilage in between your joints dry up and wear down. When the cartilage wears down, you’re more likely to experience grinding joints, pain and stiffness. The intensity of the stiffness can normally be eased with movement as you wake up and get started on your day.

The first thing you should do if you’re regularly waking up with stiff ankles in the morning is to see a qualified medical professional. Getting the proper treatment for your symptoms means getting an accurate diagnosis. In almost any event, physical therapy is a highly effective form of treatment for ankle issues, including aches, pains and stiffness. 

How does physical therapy help with ankle stiffness in the morning?

Whether it’s caused by an injury that can heal or a nonreversible condition like arthritis, physical therapy can help increase the range of motion in the ankles to improve overall functioning. Typically, the first step is to establish a baseline for symptoms and treatment through an evaluation that includes movement and posture tests as well as a hands-on examination. 

What kinds of treatment methods might be used in physical therapy?

Ankle pain can be addressed through the following primary physical therapy methods: 

  • Therapeutic exercises — When you take steps to strengthen soft tissue around these joints, they can better do their job of supporting the body and enabling movement.
  • Active and passive stretches — Targeted stretches, performed by the patient or on the patient by a physical therapist, can help improve range of motion and work against stiffness. 
  • Manual therapies — Joint and soft tissue mobilization techniques are a great way to decrease ankle stiffness in the morning. 
  • Education and lifestyle recommendations — By helping you learn about factors like posture, diet, ergonomics, and how they can affect your specific condition, you and your therapist can work together to develop an effective plan to address these issues. 

Back in Motion — your ankle pain relief experts

Back in Motion Physical Therapy can help you overcome stiff ankles in the morning with a personalized physical therapy program designed for your needs and lifestyle. 

Ankle pain shouldn’t just be a fact of life. Contact us today to start your treatment journey and schedule your initial appointment.

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