If you, your kids, or your siblings ever played any organized sports, you probably know that sprained ankles are among the most common foot and ankle problems. Even if you’re not an athlete, you may have suffered one yourself by missing a step or curb, or accidentally stepping in a hole or on an uneven surface. Because they involve a lot of moving parts and have to sustain a lot of weight and force, ankles are particularly vulnerable to injury.
Here’s What Actually Happens When You Sprain Your Ankle
Sprains occur when a joint bends, twists, or extends beyond its normal range of motion, stretching or tearing the ligaments that hold it in place. Most ankle pain injuries are inversion sprains, which occur when the foot rolls too far inward. However, they can also be caused by a foot rolling too far outward, which is known as eversion. This is the case with high ankle sprains, for example.
The most common symptoms include pain, redness, tenderness, and swelling. If the joint puffs up right away, that’s a strong sign that it’s sprained and not just twisted. More severe sprains may feature bruising, and you may feel a tear or even hear an audible popping or snapping sound. The ankle pain may be severe at first, and walking may be difficult.
Why Visiting Us Is Important
Because they’re such a common foot and ankle problem, sprains are often thought to be not that serious. However, severe sprains that are not treated properly may lead to permanent ankle instability and chronic ankle pain. Furthermore, sprains can “mask” related problems, such as an ankle fracture. If you notice severe bruising, if swelling does not go down after a few days, or you’re having difficulty putting any weight on the joint, see Family Foot and Ankle Center right away for a full evaluation including X-rays.
Caring for a Sprained Ankle
For simple sprains (classified as Grade I), follow RICE guidelines. Rest your ankle joint by limiting weight-bearing activity as much as possible; use ice (no more than 20 minutes at a time, a few times per day); compress the ankle with an elastic bandage; and elevate the injury as often as possible, ideally above your heart level. These techniques will help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
For mild sprains, swelling usually recedes within 2-3 days; more moderate sprains (Grade II) may require a little extra time to heal. Immobilization via a splint or walking boot may help. Severe sprains (Grade III) usually mean 2 or 3 weeks in a cast and, in rare cases, surgery to repair or tighten the ligaments.
After the initial treatment, you will need to follow a rehabilitation program in order to heal completely and properly, and recover previous function, as quickly as possible. Without rehab, or returning to activities too soon, you run the risk of re-injuring your ankle or dealing with chronic complications.
Our office can recommend stretches, exercises, and other physical therapy methods to restore strength, range of motion, and flexibility to your ankle. Your ligaments and muscles will be weaker than usual at first, so you’ll need to work them in order to protect the repaired joint and restore balance and coordination. Gradually, you’ll be able to return to more vigorous straight-ahead aerobic exercises, followed by sports with cutting motions such as basketball or tennis. Remember to always follow care instructions and listen to what your body is telling you—slow down or stop if you feel the pain returning.
At Family Foot and Ankle Center, we see and treat patients with ankle pain, including sprains, all the time. When you enter our doors, you can be assured that your feet and ankles are in good hands. With six locations throughout Greater Cincinnati to choose from, we’re in your neighborhood, too. If you’re suffering from ankle pain due to an accident or injury, call (513) 728-4800, (859) 282-1572, or reach us through our website contact form today.