Ligaments are tough, fibrous bands of tissue that connect and stabilize the bones forming a joint. A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments, which hold together the ankle bones, are forced beyond their normal range of motion and stretch and subsequently tear. There are four primary ligaments that stabilize the ankle. The greater number of these ligaments injured the worse the injury. A more significant sprain may be assonated with increased swelling and the inability to walk.
Ankle sprains are one of the most common orthopedic injuries and account for approximately 2 million injuries every year and up to 20 percent of sports-related injuries.
Despite the high frequency of these injuries, they generally improve with supportive care including rest, bracing, physical therapy and ice. Repeated ankle injuries are thought to cause long-term problems in the ankle due to weakened ligament, damage to the cartilage of the ankle leading to arthritis and ongoing ankle pain and swelling.
Signs and symptoms of a sprained ankle vary depending on the severity of the injury, including:
Typically, the ankle twists outward (lateral) stretching and/or tearing the ligaments on the outer ankle. Occasionally there is a rotational injury where the foot rolls inward or is trapped behind the body that injuries the ligaments between the leg bones (high ankle sprain).
Some examples include the following:
Diagnosis of an ankle sprain by an experienced UOA physician typically involves an understanding of the injury mechanism, a patient examination and x-rays. The examination often requires mechanical testing of the ankle ligaments. Often, specialized stress x-rays or an MRI may be required to evaluate the stability of the ankle joint to direct treatment.
Most ankle sprains can be treated non operatively. Treatments include rest, immobilization, use of a walking boot/brace, anti-inflammatory medication, ice, compression and physical therapy. Typically, these reduce pain and swelling to rebuild strength, stability and balance to resume activity. In general, the greater the injury the longer the rehabilitation and recovery process can take. Complete recovery can often take three months.
Occasionally, surgical management is necessary to repair injured ligaments and damaged cartilage in the ankle joint. This is seen with both lateral ankle and high ankle sprains.
The best way to avoid chronic ankle sprains is to focus on prevention. Some prevention tips include:
If you are experiencing ankle pain or think you may have a sprained ankle, schedule an appointment with us today to discuss your treatment options.