Almost everyone of us must have sprained our ankle sometime in our life. The fact is, ankle sprains are common, and can happen while coming down the stairs, walking faster on a rough surface, playing games, etc. It is surprising that even a simple twist of the ankle can be a source of potential harm to the ankle, and can lead to a fracture or severe joint pain on further accidents or injuries. It is in the best interest of the person, who has got his ankle sprained, that he should not ignore the initial symptoms of pain, and visit a physiotherapist for check up, so that treatment is carried out in a timely manner. It is the commonest of athlete injuries, which can happen to sportspeople who are involved in a lot of physical activity that causes strain on the legs, especially the ankle.
What is a Twisted Ankle?
For the layman, it is nothing but some injury that causes pain in the ankle joint while walking or running. However, to understand ankle sprain in medical terms, we need to consider the structure of the ankle. The ankle is a hinge joint (can move freely in one plane) that is composed of bones and ligaments. Basically, the ankle is a joint formed by the tibia and fibula, which are the bones above the ankle in the foreleg, and the talus, that is the bone below the ankle joint. These bones are joined by thick fibrous tissues called ligaments. On the whole, the stability of the joint is due to the unique structural arrangement of the bones and ligaments. The ligaments allow the motion of the ankle joint, however, it is restricted only to certain degrees and range. Twisted ankle or ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments are stretched more than the normal, leading to the tearing of these connective tissues.
It is necessary to categorize the severity of the ankle sprain, and that is decided by 3 grade divisions. There are three types of sprains, viz., grade 1 ankle sprain, grade 2 ankle sprain, and grade 3 ankle sprain. A person with grade 1 sprain shows mild swelling and pain, and he can walk slowly. However, the person cannot jump or hop, as it can cause severe pain. In the grade 2 sprain, the person experiences pain and swelling in the ankle, with increased intensity. Bleeding can also occur, causing bruises under the skin. In grade 3 sprain, there is complete tearing of the ligaments, leading to extreme pain, and it becomes extremely difficult for the person to walk without crutches.
The therapist examines the ankle by touching specific areas for injuries, so that he can test the degree of instability in the ankle. The therapist also asks the person to actively move the ankle, so that he can check out the areas where the person is experiencing pain while rotating the ankle. Besides these, there are various other methods, like, resisted movement, anterior drawer test, and functional tests that help in locating the exact area of pain.
Its care can be started by adopting the first aid method known as RICE, which is an acronym for the ankle treatment method - rest, ice, compression, and elevation. To decrease the swelling, it is of utmost importance that the person takes sufficient amount of rest. Resting also prevents the risk of any further damage to the joint. 'I' stands for ice or cold therapy, that requires the ankle to be treated with ice packs for two hours in intervals of fifteen minutes. Ice therapy promotes the blood flow after some time of the injury. Compression technique employs putting some bandage or support to the ankle. In elevation technique, the leg is lifted and positioned above the level of the heart, so that the blood is moved away from the site of the injury. This helps in reducing the swelling in the legs caused by increased blood flow to the injured area.
In case of serious and advanced cases of twisted ankle, the patient will be required to follow a rehabilitative program under the supervision of an expert. In the rehabilitation phase, the physiotherapist will improve the condition of the ankle by following a strict regime and workout plans for the ankle, starting from mobility and flexibility to strengthening the ankle joint. However, the healing time for the injury depends on the severity of the case.