This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


What Causes Your Ankles To Lock Up and How To Fix It?

Do you feel your ankles being locked up at times, resulting in stiffness and pain in the area? This might be due to several conditions. Read further to know what might be going on in your ankle when your ankle feels locked up and how to fix it?

Our ankles are very often overused and constantly bear multiples of body weight. Generally, our daily activities require our ankles to flex and swivel constantly in three dimensions. However, at times, they refuse to swivel suddenly, and in the next moment, the ankle feels unstable.

The Connection Between the Leg Bone and Ankle Bone

There is a connection between the tibia or the leg bone and the talus bone or the ankle. The juncture between these two bones, i.e. the leg bone and ankle, enables the ability of our ankles to swivel smoothly. The leg bone is the larger bone that runs from the knee to the ankle, while the ankle or the talus bone is the most prominent component of the ankle and it transfers weight-bearing from various bones of the shin to the foot.

The top of the talus or ankle is dome-shaped and the lower end of the leg bone or tibia rests on this dome of the talus. Both, the talus dome along with the end of the tibia have an extremely durable and slick substance coating known as cartilage. This coating of cartilage is extremely smooth and tough and is meant to offer a friction-free interaction between the talus and tibia bones. However, this harmonious relationship between the two bones can get disrupted with trauma, either sudden or repetitive overuse over time.

What Causes Your Ankles To Lock Up?

  1. Osteochondral Lesion

    Osteochondral lesion might be one of the prominent causes why your ankles might be locking up. This condition occurs when there is trauma to a fragment of the cartilage coating the talus and tibia. Untreated cartilage damage can develop into cysts.

    A lot of terms are used for referring to this condition, which includes osteochondritis dissecans, osteochondral defect, and osteochondral fracture.(1)

    Apart from the feeling of your ankles being locked up, there might be other symptoms of an osteochondral lesion, such as swelling, prolonged ankle pain, and instability of the ankle joint. The ain might persist for long, despite treatment.

    Trauma accounts for most of the Osteochondral lesions, with an Osteochondral lesion occurring with more than half of ankle sprains and also a greater percentage of fractures in the ankles.(2)

  2. Osteochondritis Dissecans:

    Osteochondritis dissecans can result in osteochondral lesions of the talus bone. Most of the Osteochondritis dissecans of the ankle or talus are localized on the posteromedial or anterolateral talar bone.(3)

    In osteochondritis dissecans there is a lack or reduced blood flow to the end part of a bone, which includes the ankle bones. There is a reduction in the blood flow because a piece of cartilage becomes loose at the end of the bone, which generally occurs after an ankle injury. Some symptoms of this condition are ankle locking, swelling, pain, tenderness, and limited range of motion.

  3. Ankle Ligament Tears and Instability:

    Severe ankle sprains can result in your ankle twisting or turning outside of its normal range of motion and can cause a tear in the ligament. Ligament tears can result in swelling, pain, locking of ankles, a feeling of instability while walking. Rest, immobilization, physical therapy, ankle brace, or even surgery might be required for treating this problem.

  4. Degenerative Joint Disease:

    Degenerative joint disease or Ankle arthritis can occur because of normal wear and tear with aging or due to traumatic injury to the ankle. When the cartilage supporting the joints becomes worn, arthritis occurs. In such a case the affected person feels pain, swelling, and ankle locking when the bones of the ankle start rubbing each other.

  5. Bone Spurs

    One more condition in which your ankles get locked up is when you have bone spurs. These are small bone-like structures that develop on the edges of the bones and also in the places where your tendons and ligaments connect to the bones. When bone spurs are formed in the ankle and the heel, they can cause your ankles to lock up. You might also feel pain and have a limited range of motion when you have bone spurs. Anti-inflammatory medications can help in reducing the pain, However, to remove the bone spur, surgery might be required.

How to Fix Locked Up Ankles?

Non-Surgical Ways to Fix Locked Up Ankles:

For most osteochondral injuries, rest would be required. Along with it, you might be prescribed for taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which can help in reducing pain and swelling. You might also be recommended to use crutches or avoid high-impact activities. Then gradually, physical therapy might be required which can aid in increasing the range of motion.

Surgical Ways To Fix Locked Up Ankles:

When non-surgical treatments become unsuccessful at fixing up your locked-up ankles, surgical interventions would be required. Arthroscopy and Bone transplantation are two means of surgical procedures that can be performed for treating the conditions resulting in ankle locking.

Arthroscopy is a surgical technique that is considered to be the best mode of surgical treatment for all sorts of osteochondral injuries. In this, tiny cameras and minuscule surgical instruments are inserted into the treatment site and repair is done.

Bone transplantation is required when the lesion is extremely large or involves subchondral bone. In this case, bone and cartilage can be transplanted into the injured area.


An ankle that locks up can be painful and impact your daily life as you might find it hard to perform normal tasks and physical activities. As we know that there are different causes for your ankles to lock up; you need to consult with your doctor and go for the diagnosis to find out the exact cause and take the appropriate treatment.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 17, 2022

Recent Posts

Related Posts