What is a sprained ankle?
A sprained ankle happens when one or more ligaments supporting the ankle stretch beyond their normal range of motion and tear. A ligament is a strong, fibrous tissue that connects bones. Ankle ligaments hold bones in place, stabilize joints, and prevent excessive movement.
Sprains typically occur in the lateral ligaments outside the ankle. There are a variety of strains, from tiny tears in the fibers that comprise the ligaments to total tears in the tissues. Over time, this can damage the cartilage and bones of the ankle joint.
Sprains are common injuries among all ages and can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the damage done to the ligaments. Sprains are usually minor injuries that can be treated at home by applying ice and resting.
However, repeated ankle injuries can have long-term consequences, including arthritis, chronic ankle pain, and chronic instability.
What causes a sprained ankle?
Sprained ligaments can occur for several reasons. If you are an athlete, your ligaments are more likely to tear from repetitive motion. Other times, sprains occur when you slip and fall or attempt to stop yourself from falling.
The risk of ligament damage may be higher for patients with underlying conditions such as arthritis or a foot condition that affects stability and alignment. Ankle sprains can happen from:
- Twisting your ankle as a result of a fall
- Exercising or walking on an uneven surface
- Jumping or pivoting awkwardly and landing on your foot
What are the symptoms of a sprained ankle?
Sprains often cause pain ranging from mild to severe. The level of pain depends on whether you overstretched or tore your ligaments. Mild sprains may only cause a momentary sting when you twist your ankle. In many cases, however, the pain persists and can interfere with your daily routine.
If the ligament is moderately or severely damaged, you may notice swelling, tenderness, or redness around the affected area. You may experience pain when walking or standing or find it difficult to place weight on the foot.
Ankle sprains have different signs and symptoms depending on the severity of the injury. These include:
- Limited range of motion
- Reduction in ankle stability
- Difficulty moving the ankle
- Swelling, tenderness, and bruising
- Pain that becomes worse if you put weight on the ankle
- Sound or sensation of popping at the time of injury
How is a sprained ankle diagnosed?
In the initial examination, Dr. Hassan will examine the affected area and determine how the injury affects foot movement. Gently manipulating the foot and ankle can also reveal signs of broken bones or nerve damage. Dr. Hassan may order an X-ray to rule out a possible fracture or an MRI if there is any suspicion of additional soft tissue damage.
How are sprained ankles treated?
Treating a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury. It is common to see bruising and swelling the day after an injury occurs. Almost all ankle sprains are treatable without surgery. It can heal a complete ligament tear without surgery by immobilizing it appropriately. If you treat the ankle injury early, the discomfort and inflammation will reduce, and you will recover quickly. Treating a sprained ankle includes:
- Medications: Over-the-counter medicines are available for swelling and pain in the ankles. These include Motrin, Ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, which are highly effective in improving function by reducing swelling and controlling pain.
- RICE: The most common treatment for treating a sprained ankle at home is RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
- Crutches: In most cases, pain and swelling last two to three days. You may have difficulty walking during this time. Dr. Hassan may advise you to use crutches if necessary.
- Immobilization: In the early stages of healing, protect your ankle and support it with a brace. In the case of grade 2 sprains, plastic devices such as cast boots or air stirrup braces can be helpful. Sprains of grade 3 will likely require two to three weeks of immobilization in a cast.
- Physical therapy: The purpose of rehabilitation exercises is to reduce stiffness, strengthen ankles, and reduce the chance of chronic ankle instability.
- Strengthening exercises: Exercises that strengthen the tendons and muscles can begin when you can support the weight without swelling or pain. Water exercises may be beneficial if you have difficulty doing land-based activities like toe-raising. If tolerated, you can include resistance exercises.
- Arthroscopy: Dr. Hassan will use an arthroscope, a small camera to examine your ankle joint. Using miniature instruments, Dr. Hassan can remove any loose pieces of cartilage, bone, or ligaments trapped in the joint.
- Reconstruction: Dr. Hassan can repair a torn ligament with sutures or stitches. He may reconstruct the torn ligament using a tissue graft taken from the tendons and ligaments of the foot and ankle.
- Rehabilitation: Post-surgical rehabilitation aims to return you to your pre-injury level of strength and range of motion. The length of time you will need to recover will depend on the extent of your surgery. Rehabilitation could take a few weeks to several months.
How can I prevent a sprained ankle?
Ankle sprains are a common injury that often go undiagnosed and untreated. So before you miss another activity due to an ankle sprain, let's look at how you can prevent an ankle injury. These tips will help you avoid ankle sprains or recurring sprains:
- Avoid wearing high heels
- Keep your muscles strong and flexible
- Stop or slow down when you feel tired
- Before exercising or playing sports, warm-up
- Wear shoes that are comfortable for your activity
- Include balance exercises in your stability training
- Take care when running or walking on uneven surfaces
- Avoid playing sports or taking part in activities that require fitness
- Put a tape or brace around the ankle if it is weak or has been injured previously
What are the possible complications of a sprained ankle?
Failing to treat your ankle sprain properly, participating in sports too soon, or repeatedly spraining your ankle can lead to complications, including:
- Ankle joint arthritis
- Ankle pain that persists
- Instability of ankle joints
to Sprained Ankle
If you have a sprained ankle, don't suffer any longer! See Dr. Hassan today for the best treatment options available. With his help, you can return to your normal activities in no time. Schedule an appointment today!Book Appointment →