The list of medical causes for ankle swelling (and swelling of the lower leg and foot) is long.  Bilateral swelling vs. swelling of only one ankle can be an important first clue.  And, despite experience and simple testing such as ultrasound, often the exact cause for a patient’s ankle swelling remains unknown.

I have found that if the serious causes can be ruled out such as blood clots, bone or joint disease or heart failure, it is possible to do some simple things to reduce swelling.

First, it is surprising to me how often our walking mechanics or gate efficiency changes as we age.  The result of this change is a weakening of the tone of our muscles in the feet, ankles and calves that over time allows blood and fluids to pool in our lower legs.

By strengthening theses smaller but important muscles in our lower legs, we can reduce the tendency of fluids to pool.  Simultaneously exercising the feet, ankles and calves has a powerful effect on improving the tone of the muscles which exist in the vicinity of the swelling.  Yes, external compression socks and water pills can also help with swelling… but are not a permanent fix.

I have been recommending one exercise which over time will improve the tone of these critical leg and foot muscles.  These exercises require no equipment, no gym membership and can be done anywhere.  The exercises are called “toe ups”.

Simply look at a wall and place both palms on the wall at face level.  With or without shoes, get up as high as possible on the balls of your feet, hold for one second and return flat to the floor.  Do 20 of these toe ups.  Rest for 20 seconds and do 20 more.

By doing 40 of these in the morning and 40 more before going to bed in the evening, seven days per week, over 6 months, you will make a significant impact in reducing or even preventing blood and fluid from pooling in your lower legs.

Photos below show me demonstrating this simple exercise: