There is a difference between sprains and strains. A sprain to the foot can be defined as an injury caused to the ligament, while a strain is a tendon or muscle injury. It is among the most common foot problems.
A sprain causes much more severe pain as compared to a strain. The recovery time depends upon the severity with which the ligament has gotten elongated or broken, and the degree of tear it has sustained.
The most commonly observed foot sprains are ankle sprains. A sprained toe can be caused if the toe gets stubbed while running or walking or during any sporting activity. Foot sprains usually affect the ligaments located between mid-foot bones and metatarsal joints
Symptoms tend to vary according to the severity of the injury. Sprains cause an obstruction in blood circulation, thus causing the skin to turn purple or blue, and are accompanied with a sharp pain.
There are 3 categories of foot sprains: grade 1, grade 2 and grade 3 foot sprain. Grade 1 foot sprain is defined as ligament over-stretching, but without any joint injury. Grade 2 foot sprain is characterized by partial ligament tear along with a mild joint injury or instability. Grade 3 foot sprain causes complete ligament tear along with conspicuous instability of the joint and the inability of the foot to bear the weight of the body.
Diagnosis and Treatment
After spraining the foot, person starts complaining of edema, commonly referred to as swelling and discomfort and pain on sustaining weight. Pain is typically confined to the ligament which is injured.
The doctor will typically begin by examining the injured foot and comparing it with the uninjured one. He will access the injury, noting the degree of swelling and bruising. He will gently press and feel around the injured area to determine the amount of tenderness. He will also check for the range of motion by conducting a thorough physical exam of the joints.
In foot sprain injuries, bruising along with swelling is observed. The doctor may suggest getting an X-ray, which reveals stress fracture, if any. In some cases, a CT scan or MRI is done to get a clear idea of injury.
During the treatment, the 'RICE' therapy is strictly followed. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Anti-inflammatory medicines are often prescribed to alleviate swelling and to reduce pain. In severe and chronic cases, splints, taping and other supportive orthopedic devices are suggested. For grade 3 foot sprains, surgery has to be undergone to repair the damage.
Rehabilitation and Recovery Time
The time for recovery varies according to the severity of the sprain. It also depends on the adherence to the doctor's advice and rest taken.
Activities like exercising, walking, running etc, during the rehabilitation period, without your doctor's nod will only increase recovery time of the sprained foot. Mild strains can be treated and rehabilitated by applying ice bag for a period of 2 - 3 days at the site of the injury. Such sprains are usually cured completely within a couple of weeks, provided precautions such as bracing or bandaging the injured area and keeping the foot stationary and elevated are taken. In the case of severe sprains, the time required for complete healing is usually a lot more.
For grade I foot sprains, the time for recovery typically ranges from a fortnight to a month and for grade II foot sprain, it varies approximately between 1 ½ - 2 months. Grade 3 foot sprains can take up to 3 months to heal.
Once the inflammation alleviates, the recovery efforts concentrate on regaining back the strength of intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles. Gentle exercises are recommended as per the individual's tolerance. Gradually, a person can resume work and daily activities after sufficient recovery takes place.
In the wake of an injury to the foot, consulting the doctor in time for initiating treatment is essential. If the expert medical advice and instructions are followed during the rehabilitation phase, the person can recover completely and resume daily activities at the earliest.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.