Swollen Ankles and Feet!

Swollen feet

What Causes Swollen Ankles and Feet?

Swollen ankles and feet, also known as oedema, can be caused by various factors. Oedema (often called “edema” in American English) is a medical condition characterized by an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body’s tissues. This can lead to swelling and puffiness in various parts of the body, commonly in the legs, ankles, feet, and hands. There are several types of oedema, including, however swelling in the feet is referred to as Peripheral Oedema. This is the most common type, where fluid accumulates in the extremities, particularly the legs, ankles, and feet. Here are some common causes of fluid retention that cause swollen ankles and feet:

Sitting or standing for long periods:

This can lead to fluid accumulation in the lower extremities.

Pregnancy: Pregnancy

The growing uterus can put pressure on blood vessels, leading to fluid retention.

Certain medications:

Some medications, like calcium channel blockers, NSAIDs, and steroids, can lead to fluid retention.

Heart Failure:

In heart failure, the heart’s pumping capacity is compromised, leading to fluid buildup in the legs and ankles.

Kidney Disease:

Impaired kidney function can lead to fluid retention. Kidney disease can lead to a variety of symptoms and complications, and swollen feet (also known as oedema) is one of them. Through kidney disease when the kidneys are not functioning properly, they may have difficulty filtering out excess fluid and waste products from the body.

Injury or Trauma:

An injury to the ankle or foot, such as a sprain or fracture, can cause ankle bleeding and swelling. Certain overuse injuries can lead to medial malleolus pain and swelling.


Infections in the lower extremities, such as cellulitis, can lead to localised swelling around the ankle and feet.

Chronic Venous Insufficiency:

Chronic Venous Insufficiency occurs when the veins in the legs have trouble sending blood back to the heart. It can lead to fluid buildup and swelling.

Lymphatic System Issues:

Problems with drainage in the lymphatic system, can result in lymphedema causing swelling and fluid to collect oil the extremities.

Blood Clots:

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or other blood clotting disorders can lead to swelling. Deep vein thrombosis can be caused by various factors and needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible as it can lead to a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism, which requires urgent medical attention.

Liver Disease:

Conditions like cirrhosis can lead to fluid retention and swelling. Liver disease can lead to fluid retention, a condition known as ascites. This happens because the liver plays a crucial role in regulating fluid balance in the body. When the liver is damaged or diseased, it may not be able to produce enough of a protein called albumin. Albumin helps maintain the balance of fluids in the blood vessels. When albumin levels are low, fluid can leak out of the blood vessels and accumulate in the abdominal cavity.

Hormonal Changes:

Hormonal fluctuations, particularly in women during menstruation or pregnancy, can lead too much fluid retention.


Severe protein deficiency can lead to oedema.


Excess body weight can put pressure on blood vessels, leading to fluid retention and swollen ankle.

Varicose Veins: salt

These are enlarged, twisted veins that can cause blood pooling causing swollen feet.


Allergic reactions can lead to localized swelling.

High Salt Intake:

Consuming too much sodium can lead to fluid retention.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD):

This condition can lead to poor blood circulation in the legs, which can cause swelling.

How to treat foot and ankle swelling at home:

While it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for persistent or severe foot and ankle swelling, there are some home remedies that may provide relief for mild cases. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Elevate Your Feet: Elevating your feet above heart level can help reduce swelling. Use pillows to prop up your feet while lying down.
  2. Rest and Avoid Prolonged Standing or Sitting: If possible, take breaks from sitting or standing for long periods of time. Movement can help improve circulation.
  3. Compression Garments: Consider wearing compression socks or stockings or using a compression bandage. These can help improve blood flow and reduce swelling.
  4. Cold Compress or Ice Pack: Applying a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a thin cloth to the swollen area for 15-20 minutes at a time can help reduce inflammation.
  5. Warm Soak: Soaking your feet in warm water with a bit of Epsom salt may help relax muscles and reduce swelling. Don’t use hot water as it can worsen swelling.
  6. Limit Salt Intake: Excessive salt can lead to fluid retention. Try to reduce your salt intake and opt for fresh, whole foods.
  7. Stay Hydrated: Drinking enough water can help maintain proper fluid balance in your body.
  8. Gentle Exercise: Activities like walking or gentle stretching can promote circulation and reduce swelling.
  9. Massage: Gently massaging the swollen area can help improve blood flow. Use long, upward strokes towards the heart.
  10. Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Include foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties like fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts).
  11. Avoid Tight Clothing: Avoid wearing tight shoes or socks, as they can restrict blood flow.
  12. Herbal Remedies: Some herbal supplements like dandelion and parsley may have diuretic properties that can help reduce fluid retention. Consult a healthcare provider before using any herbal remedies.
  13. Weight Management: If excess weight is a contributing factor, maintaining a healthy weight can help alleviate swelling.

Remember, these home remedies are not a substitute for professional medical advice and treatment. If your swelling persists, worsens, or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, consult a healthcare provider promptly. They can evaluate your condition and recommend appropriate treatment options.

How can Physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, can be a crucial part of the treatment plan for individuals with oedema. Here’s how physiotherapy can help:

  1. Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD): Physiotherapists trained in lymphedema management can perform MLD. This is a specialized massage technique that helps stimulate the lymphatic system, promoting the drainage of excess fluid from the tissues.
  2. Compression Therapy: Physiotherapists can provide guidance on and help with the application of compression garments or bandages. These garments help to reduce swelling by providing external pressure to support the flow of lymphatic fluid.
  3. Exercise and Movement: Physiotherapists can develop customized exercise programs that focus on gentle movements and exercises. This helps to improve circulation, muscle strength, and joint flexibility, all of which can aid in managing oedema.
  4. Education and Lifestyle Advice: Physiotherapists can educate patients about oedema, its causes, and self-care techniques. This may include advice on maintaining a healthy diet, managing weight, and avoiding activities that exacerbate swelling.
  5. Posture and Body Mechanics: Correcting posture and teaching proper body mechanics can help optimize circulation and reduce the likelihood of fluid buildup.
  6. Range of Motion (ROM) Exercises: For individuals with mobility issues due to edema, physiotherapists can design exercises to help maintain or regain joint movement.
  7. Pain Management: Physiotherapists can employ techniques like manual therapy, hot/cold packs, and other modalities to help alleviate pain associated with oedema.
  8. Monitoring Progress: Through regular sessions, physiotherapists can track the progress of the individual’s condition and make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed.
  9. Advice on Self-Care Techniques: Physiotherapists can teach patients self-massage and self-drainage techniques that they can use at home to manage oedema.
  10. Collaboration with Other Healthcare Professionals: Physiotherapists often work as part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team. They can collaborate with physicians, occupational therapists, and other specialists to ensure comprehensive care for individuals with oedema.

Foot and ankle

Remember, the specific approach will depend on the type and severity of oedema, as well as any underlying conditions. It’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional, like a physiotherapist or a doctor, for personalized advice and treatment.

When to see your doctor about foot and ankle swelling:

If you experience persistent or severe swelling in your ankles and feet, it’s important to seek medical attention. A healthcare provider can help determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment and management of your swelling.

Ready to start moving again?