Ligaments are bands of tough connective tissue that connect bones and provide support to a joint. Any injury that causes a ligament to tear partially or completely would naturally cause pain and limit the range of motion of that particular joint. The following write-up explains the circumstances under which one may end up with a torn ligament in the ankle, and also ways to treat the same.
An ankle sprain, also known as a twisted ankle, is a common injury that occurs when ligaments are stretched beyond their normal range of motion. Such injuries occur when the ligaments are stretched beyond their normal range due to an inward/outward twisting or rolling motion.
More often than not, a sudden twist in ankle may occur while landing from a jump or running on an uneven surface. Though an ankle sprain is one of the most common sports injuries, rolling or twisting motions of the foot could even occur while walking or climbing stairs. This may cause the ligaments to get overstretched. The ligaments in the ankle could get partially/completely torn. When that happens, a person might suffer from pain and face difficulty while walking. The intensity of pain will vary depending on the severity of the ligament tear.
The common symptoms of ankle ligament injuries are:
- Swelling in the affected ankle
- Stiffness in the ankle joint.
The symptoms and recovery time will vary depending on the extent of tearing. A sprain is classified into first degree sprain, second degree sprain and third degree sprain.
- A mild pain, swelling and tenderness are the common signs of a first degree sprain. A first degree sprain occurs when the ligament gets overstretched. This could cause microscopic tearing of collagen fibers.
- A second degree sprain is associated with a partial tearing of the collagen fibers. It often leads to bruising, swelling and tenderness in the ankle. The intensity of pain is more and affected person will find it difficult to walk.
- A third degree sprain occurs when there is a complete rupture or tearing of the ligament in ankle. It is characterized by massive swelling, bruising and severe pain.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If the pain is excruciating, you must consult a doctor soon. An X-ray examination might be required to assess the extent of injury. It is important to find out if the pain is caused by a torn ligament in the ankle or a fractured bone.
Usually R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) guidelines are followed for the treatment of sprains.
- A person who has been diagnosed with an ankle ligament injury must take rest to allow the ligaments to heal.
- Swelling can be alleviated by applying ice packs. However, make sure that you don’t apply the ice directly on the skin. Wrap it in a clean towel and place it over the sprained ankle for 15-20 minutes. Ice packs will constrict the blood vessels and help in alleviating pain to some extent.
- If the ligament has ruptured, you will probably have to wear a cast to compress or hold the ligament in place while it heals.
- Don’t put pressure on the affected ankle. Keep it elevated. You can prop it up on stacked pillows as you sleep. Use crutches so as to avoid putting pressure on the injured ankle.
- The recovery time will vary depending on the severity of ligament tear. If the ligaments are affected by a first degree sprain, one may recover within 2-6 weeks.
- In case the ligament is partially torn, one may take 4-8 weeks to recover.
- In case of a complete rupture, the ligament could take 8-12 weeks to heal.
You could also benefit from physical therapy sessions. Make sure that the ligament has healed completely before indulging in any physical activity. The earlier one visits the doctor, the better. If one doesn’t follow the guidelines and the necessary precautions suggested by the doctor, one would take longer to recover. Rest is very important. Any strain to the affected ligament can cause complications. So, take ample rest and follow the advice given by your doctor.
While R.I.C.E. guidelines are often used for alleviating the symptoms of a first degree and second degree sprain, a timely medical treatment is essential for a third degree sprain. Once the ligament heals, one may also be required to perform certain exercises to restore the normal range of motion of the ankle joint.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.