An ankle sprain is one of the most common types of injury. This article provides an overview of the causes, symptoms, and why it is important to treat it promptly.
An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments within it get injured. This generally happens to those that are on the outside part of the joint. Ligaments are bands or sheets of tough tissue, akin to rubber bands, which bind joints together and connect one bone to the other. Those that are found in the ankle joint provide stability, because they limit movement from side-to-side.
The severity of a sprained ankle is contingent upon various factors, such as the number of ligaments involved, and whether they are completely torn, partially torn, or just overstretched.
Sprains are generally caused by a sudden twist, a fall, or any kind of blow that results in the ligaments being stretched abnormally or getting torn. It usually occurs while running or walking on an uneven surface, wearing shoes that are not appropriate, tripping on the stairs, or while taking part in sports.
Some people who are born with weak ankles are also prone to sprains. A previous injury to the concerned area if not healed properly, could also make you susceptible.
Some of the symptoms and signs include:
- Ankle pain or tenderness
- Swelling around the affected area
- Stiffness of the joint
- Discomfort or pain felt while walking
The above symptoms can differ in intensity, according to the severity of the injury. Occasionally, in individuals who have had the same injury previously, the pain or swelling could be absent. Instead, they may experience a feeling as if the ankle is unsteady or wobbly while walking. In this case, it is still essential to get it treated. Prompt medical attention is required to avoid further complications in the future.
How to Treat It?
Most sprains heal within 4 – 6 weeks if proper precaution and care is taken. You can use the RICE formula, which means Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate, immediately in order to reduce the exacerbation of the injury any further, as well as provide relief for the pain and/or swelling. Then, you need to get in touch with a medical professional, preferably a foot and ankle specialist, as fast as possible.
Why does It Require Prompt Medical Attention?
Here are some of the most important reasons why a sprained ankle should be evaluated and treated promptly by a specialist:
- If it is left untreated, it could result in chronic instability, which is a condition characterized by the ankle ‘giving way’ frequently and continual discomfort. A weakness of the leg may also develop.
- It could lead to a more serious injury in the ankle, such as a fracture of the bones.
- It could also be accompanied by an injury to the foot, by which discomfort is caused, but may have gone unnoticed until now.
You may be advised by the doctor to incorporate movement in the joint early on during the healing process, to avoid stiffness. Movement can also help in sensing orientation, location, position, as well as the motion of the joint, also known as proprioception. However, there can be injuries that are more severe, such as high ankle sprains, which can be more difficult to treat and could require surgery.