Ankle sprains are extremely common, accounting for 40 per cent of all sports injuries and 10 per cent of all muscular/skeletal injuries, according to a July 2016 summary in Podiatry Today. Sports mishaps, work miscues and walking missteps can all lead to ankle sprains. Here’s what to do at home, and when to see a doctor or physical therapist to help your ankle to heal.
As you step onto a cracked footpath or a overturned stone, or just an uneven surface, your foot and ankle could twist. Sports involving lateral or cutting actions, such as football, cricket or tennis, can also cause sprains.
The difference between a strain and a sprain is a matter of degree. “A strain is a mild stretch of a tendon or a ligament, whereas a sprain is more severe,” The sprain and strain are more soft-tissue, whereas a fracture would be an extreme injury where you break a bone.
People who have hypermobile or flexible feet tend to be more susceptible to ankle sprains, due to the extreme range of motion that occurs in the midfoot. Conditions such as extreme flatfeet, or structural and functional deformities in rear or midfoot, make people vulnerable to sprains. Some patients have chronic, repetitive sprains. That can be attributable to an injury to the outer part of the ankle – the ligaments are just too loose. In some cases, patients may benefit from ankle-stabilizing surgery to tighten the ligaments.
RICE Right Away
The standard regimen for most ankle sprains is RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation. Start with RICE as an immediate home remedy:
Over-the-counter medications like paracetamol work well for mild ankle pain. With obvious dislocation, fracture or extensive bruising, tenderness, and increasing swelling consider seeing a specialist immediately. An X-ray is indicated if 48 hours after the injury you put weight on your ankle and it still hurts. Physical therapy is an option if ankle-sprain recovery is lagging. A physical therapist might suggest crutches, if needed, and offer a variety of treatments. It takes soft tissue at least four to six weeks to get stronger after an acute injury, so it’s better not to rush back into action.
The most important point to keep in mind when talking about ankle injuries, then, is to prevent the condition from becoming chronic or recurrent.