An ankle sprain is a type of ligament injury that occurs when you roll, twist, or land on your ankle awkwardly. In many cases, home remedies provide a sufficient route to recovery. More severe sprains, however, require proper treatment and rehabilitation to reduce the risk of reinjuring the area.
Your ankles and feet play a major role in how you get around every day. A complex system of bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues works collectively to support body weight, absorb shock, and provide balance.
The talocrural joint—commonly known as the ankle joint—is where the talus, tibia, and fibula meet. The talus is located just above the heel bone, whereas the tibia and fibula are the two long bones that form the lower leg. Furthermore, the top of the talus fits into a deep socket formed by the meeting of the fibula and tibia.
Similarly, several muscles, tendons, and ligaments allow the ankle to have flexibility, range of motion, and strength. Tendons and ligaments are made up of strong, fibrous material called collagen. Whereas ligaments connect a bone to another bone, tendons connect bone to muscle.
Many people use the terms sprain and strain interchangeably. However, these terms actually refer to two different conditions. A sprain involves damage to a ligament. On the other hand, strains involve an injury to muscles and/or tendons. Ankle sprains are much more common than strains as well as other forms of sprains elsewhere in the body.
There are several ligaments that make up the ankle. To understand which ligaments may be affected, let’s look at the two main types of ankle sprains.
An ankle sprain is a common type of sports injury. Of course, athletes aren’t the only ones who can suffer from it. Any instance in which the ankle is forced out of its normal position can cause a sprain. This includes:
In addition, certain risks and personal habits can make you more likely to develop an ankle sprain including:
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Ankle sprains are usually acute (short-term) injuries occurring after a single trauma. You will probably feel some level of discomfort immediately after landing the wrong way or losing your footing.
Common symptoms for an ankle sprain include:
If you suspect you have an ankle sprain, you should get it checked out by a doctor. A simple physical examination can determine the severity of your sprain and if any medical attention is required. Exams include assessing your range of motion and pressing (or palpating) the ankle to determine the injured ligament(s).
Doctors grade the severity of a sprain (or strain) based on your symptoms and a physical exam. The three grades of sprains are:
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As with many mild to moderate ligament and soft tissue injuries, the RICE method is usually used immediately after the injury occurs. RICE stands for:
In addition to the RICE method, your doctor may recommend OTC pain medications. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can reduce pain and inflammation of the ankle.
Moderate and severe ankle sprains may require additional treatment. This can include:
In order for your ankle to heal properly, it needs to be immobilized and supported. Crutches allow you to keep weight off of your ankle. Boots and braces ensure that your ankle doesn’t make any sudden movements to reinjure the area.
Rehabilitation by a physical therapist (PT) can increase ankle strength and range of motion. Guidance from a PT can also help you prevent further ankle injuries.
A PT will prescribe strengthening exercises after you can safely bear weight on the ankle. Also, balance training can increase your ankle stability. Once you are able to complete more tasks with your ankle, your PT may also have you work on agility and endurance exercises to improve your ankle strength.
While it is rare, some individuals with severe and/or chronic ankle sprains may benefit from surgery. If continued pain or ankle instability occurs after your injury, you may want to consult a board-certified orthopedist or podiatrist. A simple consultation can help you understand if surgery is necessary and what procedures are best for your condition.
Typical surgeries for a torn ankle ligament include:
Most people make a full recovery after an ankle sprain. This is, however, dependent on sticking with the right treatment regimen to ensure that your ankle fully heals. Not following through with rehab or stretching exercises may make the ankle more prone to further injuries.
Are you having a hard time getting rid of your ankle pain? Our doctors at NJ Spine & Orthopedic will meet with you to discuss the best treatments for your ankle. We believe that conservative treatments usually need to be explored first.
If you do need surgery, we use the latest, minimally invasive procedures to ensure less pain and quicker recovery times. Call us today at (855) 586-2615 to schedule an appointment with one of our ankle doctors!
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