All objects have a limit to their flexibility. Imagine twisting and pulling a cardboard tube (like the ones inside a papertowel roll). Even though these are often fairly flexible, the rotation and strain on the tube will eventually take a toll on the cardboard fibers. With enough force, they tear. The same thing can happen in your ankles. Twisting and straining the joint results in painful damage and weakness, like an ankle sprain.
An ankle sprain is the overstretching or tearing of the ligaments that support the ankle joint. The connective tissues holding the ankle do stretch somewhat to accommodate normal movement, but their flexibility is limited. If a trip or a fall twists those tissues past their range of motion, you are left limping. Pain from a sprain is immediate. The injury to the connectors weakens the joint and can make it harder to move around, though you may still be able to walk. The area also swells significantly and may even bruise.
While some people hear “sprain” and think it isn’t a serious injury, the damage can have significant long-term effects, like chronic ankle instability. Leaving this condition untreated and continuing to use the affected limb means the tissues are unable to repair themselves. If your ligaments suffered a tear, this is especially risky. The tissue may not be able to recover, leaving you in pain and prone to re-injury. Taking care of a sprain shortly after it happens is key for restoring your lower limbs to full strength and mobility.
Repairing the Damage
You will need to have your joint evaluated by a specialist, like those here at Country Foot Care, to determine the extent of the condition. They will examine the strength and stability of the ankle and may request diagnostic images to get a clearer picture of the damage. From there they can help you begin treatment.
Sprains have three degrees of severity: mild, moderate, and severe. How badly your ankle is injured determines how it is treated. Most sprains can be remedied using entirely conservative treatments. You’ll have to take a break from your activities while you recover to rest and lower the swelling. You may need to stabilize the joint with a brace or a wrap. Keep your foot elevated and ice the joint to discourage swelling. We may prescribe an anti-inflammatory pain medications as well. For moderate to severe injuries, you may need to avoid weight-bearing and immobilize the ankle. If a ligament is completely ruptured, you may need surgery to repair it to be able to fully heal. Once your limb has sufficiently recovered, you’ll most likely need physical therapy exercises to help it return to full strength.
An ankle sprain isn’t as simple as it might seem at first. Even though it may not hurt too badly and you are able to walk on it, taking care of the problem right away helps make the difference between a strong, recovered joint and one that causes pain or is easily re-injured years down the road. Don’t just hope it’ll get better on its own. Contact us for more information using the MAKE AN APPOINTMENT form at the top of this page or call our offices directly.