Summary of Ankle Sprain
The ankle joint is the area most prone to sprain injuries in the body, due mostly to the foot being forcibly turned inwards. This action causes the ligaments to overstretch, resulting in inflammation, pain, swelling and immobility.
Ankle Sprain FAQ's
The ankle joint is made up of the shine bone, the fibula bone, and the ankle bone, all these are bound together by ligaments that provide overall stability to the joint. Ligaments are made of a tough fibrous material but can become injured easily if overstretched during a sudden pull or movement. This is often known as a twisted ankle, rolled ankle, inversion sprain or sprained ankle. The overstretching results in inflammation, swelling and pain around the ankle bone and joint, and in more severe cases the ligament call pull part of the bone away. This is termed an avulsion fracture and it uncommon when compared with a standard sprain.
A snapping or popping noise, followed by pain and swelling, are the most common symptoms. If the sprain was caused by the foot turning inwards, the pain will occur on the outside of the foot and ankle – though this may not become visible until up to 24 hours after the injury. This swelling can immobilise the joint and cause bruising that makes the joint extremely tender. Weight bearing becomes difficult, as does movement. If a patient suffers from an unstable ankle, this may be indication of a more chronic issue.
Minor sprains usually resolve themselves within 3 weeks, while more intense injuries require between 4 and 6 weeks. In the case of a serious rupture, surgical intervention may be necessary. The clinician will advise when you can return to normal sporting activity, asking you to demonstrate full fitness and ability to meet the physical demands of your activity.
The most common cause is when the foot turns inwards and overstretches the ligaments on the outside of the ankle – this is an inversion sprain. This often happens if someone stumbles, misses a step or lands awkwardly on the outside of the foot. Ankle sprains are common in sports, and old ankle ligament injuries may render an individual prone to recurrent ankle sprains in the future.
Immediate treatment within the first 24-72 hours involves RICE therapy – Test, Ice, Compression and Elevation. You should also during this period avoid HARM – Heat, Alcohol, Running and Massage – as tempting as any of them may seem in light of the pain you are experiencing. After 48-72 hours you enter the rehabilitation stage, applying gentle stress in the form of gradual movement to the ankle ligaments, for the next 2-3 weeks. This will ensure consistent realignment and repair across the ligament and ensure that scar tissue forms properly. If gentle stress is not applied, the scar tissue will form haphazardly and long-term pain will continue to cause issues. Exercise is thus the most important aspect of treatment and pain management in the long run. The clinician will suggest exercises that will work on your balance and mobility, and may also prescribe exercises that relate directly to your normal activity so as to restore a good level of function for your sporting goals. Once the inflammatory stage has died down, the clinician may suggest heat therapy and localised ‘friction’ massage to stimulate faster repair. Support braces may also be prescribed if it is felt they will help return you activity levels to normal.
You will receive a tailored program of exercises to fit with your healing rate and the severity of your injury. Failure to perform the exercises gradually and correctly will result in a poor repaid that will prolong the pain and render you prone to repeat injury.