Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries that we experience in our daily lives. It is estimated that more than 60% of us experience a significant ankle sprain at some point in our lives. These sprains can lead to significant chronic ankle pain and ankle instability if proper care is not delivered.
The most common ankle sprain is shown in the picture to the left, where the foot rolls in and the ligaments are damaged. There are three main ligaments on the outside of the ankle and the severity of the ankle sprain depends on how many of the ligaments are damaged. The term “high ankle sprain” that you commonly hear related to sports injuries, is were all three ligaments are damaged or torn.
Proper treatment for ankle sprains is the key to preventing long-term problems. The initial treatment is to stabilize the ankle. This can be done at home using an ace wrap or ankle brace. In the clinic, it is not unusual that we place individuals in a removable walking cast or even a soft cast in which you can walk. This stability allows the ligaments to heal properly. If the ligaments do not heal properly, the ankle will not have the stability that it needs which can lead to further ankle sprains, chronic pain and even arthritis in the joint. Initially, after any ankle sprain, you should ice it. Rest the ankle, ice to reduce swelling, compression to help with the swelling and elevation to also help with the swelling. This treatment should continue until the swelling has gone down and the stability protected until the pain is gone. Most people do not realize this may take several months. I often have to remind patients that professional athletes are in the prime of their life and have experienced a “high ankle sprain” that commonly takes six weeks to get back to their normal activity and are never really healed until after the season. This is the best daily medical care and physical therapy that most of us don’t have or seek out. This is a slow injury to heal and as we get older, like everything else, it takes longer to recover.
With a severe ankle sprain, you always have to be concerned about the potential for an ankle fracture. Many of my patients have told me “I can move it so it’s not broken.” This is false. You can move a broken ankle and even walk on one. I have seen multiple patients that have come into the office weeks after “spraining” their ankle that is not getting better and they actually been walking on a broken ankle for weeks. This increases the risk of chronic pain and ankle problems and may lead to surgery in some cases.
The key to preventing chronic ankle problems after an ankle sprain is proper diagnosis and treatment immediately following the injury. You cannot tell how bad the sprain is or if there is a broken bone just by looking. I recommend that with any “moderate” to “severe” ankle sprain, you seek out medical advice as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment of your ankle.
Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your foot and ankle health or you are suffering from foot and/or ankle pain. You can view our websites www.ahicarealliance.com and www.ahinstitute.com for additional information and for further blog entries. Our videos may also be viewed on YouTube regarding your foot.