What are ankle sprains?
Ankle sprains are injuries involving stretching or tearing of the ligaments in the ankle. They commonly occur when the foot twists or rolls, causing the ankle joint to move out of its normal position. There are two main types of sprains: inversion sprains, where the foot rolls inward, damaging the outer ligaments, and eversion sprains, where the foot rolls outward, affecting the inner ligaments. The severity ranges from mild stretching with minor damage to a complete tear of the ligament.
What can cause ankle sprains?
Numerous factors can cause a sprain, including an uneven surface, sudden changes in direction, wearing improper footwear, and exhaustion. A sprain is a common sports injury and can happen in sports like basketball if a player steps on another’s foot, lands incorrectly after a jump, or does not engage in sufficient warm-up beforehand. Ankle fractures are common with this type of injury as well. People with recurrent ankle injuries are also more susceptible to future sprains, and could end up with a chronic ankle sprain. Chronic ankle sprains occur when the ankle is injured again before the previous ankle sprains heal.
What are the symptoms of ankle sprains, and how are they diagnosed?
Ankle sprains can present with specific symptoms that indicate the injury. These symptoms can include:
- Pain:Ankle sprains commonly produce pain in the affected area. The degree of discomfort varies according to the severity of the sprain.
- Swelling:Swelling is a frequent symptom of an ankle sprain resulting from the body’s inflammatory response to the injury.
- Bruising:Because blood vessels are injured during the sprain, bruising or discoloration may occur around the ankle.
- Instability:Ankle sprains can give the joint a sense of instability or looseness. The ankle frequently feels as though it is “giving way” or is unable to adequately support the body when there is instability.
- Difficulty Walking:It can be difficult to walk normally after an ankle injury. Putting weight on the injured ankle may be difficult due to pain and instability.
In order to identify an ankle sprain, a medical expert will often perform a physical examination, evaluate the severity of the injury, and place an order for X-rays or other imaging tests to rule out fractures or evaluate ligament damage. They may also do particular tests to establish the type and extent of the sprain.
What are the treatment and aftercare options for ankle sprains?
Usually, ankle sprains are managed non-surgically with an emphasis on minimizing pain and swelling. Recovery is divided into stages, beginning with a walking boot and crutches and progressing to a supportive sneaker and a smaller ankle brace. Physical therapy is crucial for recovering ankle strength and mobility. Over time, swelling and pain should subside, enabling a gradual return to normal activities.
Exceptional circumstances include high ankle sprains, which require longer immobilization and potentially surgery, and deltoid and Chopart sprains, which may also require specific treatment approaches. Further evaluation, such as an MRI scan, may be needed if ongoing pain persists or the ankle does not improve as expected. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.
There are ways you can prevent ankle sprains. To prevent future ankle sprains, make sure you warm up and perform stretching exercises before exercising or playing sports and maintain good muscle strength. Wearing the appropriate, supportive footwear is also important. If you’ve suffered from a sprain previously, tape or a brace could be helpful as well. Finally, be wary of uneven or wet ground when exercising or playing sports outside.
The right step toward recovery
At Texas Orthopaedic Associates, we understand the challenges and impact of ankle sprains. If you’re experiencing symptoms like pain, swelling, difficulty walking, or ankle instability, reach out to us today. We’re here to support you every step of the way.