Although they are often associated with sports, much like turf toe or pulled hamstrings, ankle sprains can, and likely will, affect almost everyone at some point in their lives. All it takes for one to happen is a slight misjudging over the distance of curb or step, or perhaps slipping on a slick surface in winter. Before you know it, your ankle has twisted further than its intended limit. A sprained ankle is simply one of the most common injuries humans experience, yet few know enough about why they happen and how to treat them.
Ankle Anatomy 101
To understand this injury, it is important to consider the make-up of an ankle. This invaluable body part is responsible for keeping you mobile and maintaining your independence. It is constructed by three bones: the fibula, tibia, and the talus. Your fibula and tibia are the lower leg bones and they are connected to the talus, the bone sitting directly above the calcaneus (heel bone).
Numerous ligaments are used to bind the leg bones to each other and to the foot bones. There are actually two different joints in the ankle – the subtalar joint and the ankle joint. The subtalar allows for side-to-side movement, whereas the true ankle joint provides up-and-down motion.
Taking Things Too Far
Typically, an ankle sprain occurs when a foot is planted and then the body makes a sudden shifting movement, as can often happen in sports. In the non-athletic world, this can take place when the outer edge of a foot is resting just off of a step and your body weight pushes down upon it. This causes your foot to roll inwards, as the ankle rolls outwards. The ligaments that connect the bones in the joint—particularly those on the outer edge—become overstretched and tear.
In that moment, pain is immediate. It will be felt in the area of the torn ligament. You may experience swelling and bruising right away and notice that the affected ankle is tender to the touch and hurts when you try to move it. If the sprain is severe, the pain will likely be quite intense and you might not be able to walk or even place weight on the foot right away.
RICE: Not Just a Side Dish
When it comes to treatment for an ankle sprain, your best place to start is with the RICE method:
- Rest – Avoid activities that require weight to be put upon your injured foot.
- Ice – Apply an ice pack every hour or two for approximately 15-20 minutes. Do this for 24 to 72 hours following your injury or until swelling has decreased. Keep a thin towel between the ice and your skin, so as not to damage the skin.
- Compression – To further reduce swelling in the ankle, use an elastic compression wrap during the first 24 to 36 hours following the injury. This will not protect the ankle from further injury, but it will promote circulation to assist in healing the injured area.
- Elevation – Raising the injured ankle above your heart’s level a couple of hours during the day, and propping it up on pillows at night, will reduce the levels of bruising and swelling.
In addition to RICE, you can contribute to a full recovery with the use of rehab exercises. It is important to ensure that the injured ligaments heal completely, to avoid the risk of developing a weak or chronically painful ankle. Rushing back into action too soon after your injury only increases your likelihood of reinjuring the ankle.
Effective Foot and Ankle Care in OKC
If you have given the injury time to heal but are still facing issues, it is time to seek professional help. Foot & Ankle Center of Oklahoma is here to provide more information or effective care for any foot or ankle problems, including difficult ankle sprains. Give us a call at (405) 418-2676 or schedule an appointment online with our Oklahoma City, OK office today.
Request an Appointment
Access your needed information from anywhere, at any time!