Lateral ankle sprains are the most common type of ankle sprains. These sprains happen after an inversion injury or inward rolling of your foot on your ankle and affect the ligaments on the outside of your ankle. They most commonly occur in sports, especially seen in basketball and football, but also can occur in everyday activity. The lateral ankle is composed of three major ligaments, the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL), the calcaneal fibular ligament (CFL), and the posterior talofibular ligament (PTFL). There are varying degrees of severity of ankle sprains, but the most commonly injured ligament is the ATFL.
Certain people are more prone to ankle sprains than others, especially those with a higher arch foot or those who have had a severe or multiple sprains in the past. It is normal after suffering from a sprain to have varying levels of swelling and bruising. The most important thing following a sprain is over the first 24-72 hours to practice the pneumonic RICE. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Studies also show that initiation of early range of motion is key in the recovery process. Once the swelling goes down, then strengthening of the muscles around the ankle joint should be initiated to help prevent chronic ankle instability. Taping, bracing, and balancing exercises also can help in preventing re-injury. Most people start to feel better after a sprain over a couple of days, but in the case of severe sprains this could take several weeks to recover. If you develop a sprain that is not improving over a couple days, especially if you have followed the pneumonic RICE, then make sure you schedule an appointment with your doctor.
-Dr. Colleen Law
Ligaments in the ankle bind bones and the ankle joint together, providing it with stability and limiting its lateral movement. Unlike strains, which are damage to the muscles, ankle sprains are injuries to the ankle’s ligaments, usually on the outside of the ankle. Damage to these ligaments is usually caused by a traumatic event – a fall, twist or impact – and can range in severity depending on whether the damaged ligament(s) is stretched, partially torn or completely torn.
You may be able to identify an ankle sprain because of a combination of symptoms, usually after a traumatic event. These include pain and soreness, swelling, bruising, difficulty or unsteadiness walking and stiffness in the joint. If you have had previous ankle injuries or weak ankles, it may not be surprising that you would sprain your ankle.
The bottom line with ankle sprains is that they must be treated in a proper manner. Without treatment, an ankle that was sprained can become weak and lead to chronic ankle instability. While these soft tissue injuries are often short of a tear, they still need to be immobilized for a number of weeks, depending on how bad of a sprain it is. Without visiting your podiatrist for a diagnosis, other related injuries or underlying conditions may go undetected leading to complications and further or prolonged injuries – like repeatedly spraining the same ankle.
Your podiatrist will most likely give you a walking boot in order to immobilize your ankle. A variety of treatment options are recommended for ankle sprains, including RICE and NSAIDs. Early physical therapy that works on your ankle’s range of motion will promote healing and increase the injured ankle’s rehabilitation. Surgery may be required in severe cases in which a ligament, or multiple ligaments, has been damaged. It is essential for the long-term health of your ankle that you find the proper treatment regimen for you injury.