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Anatomy of a sprained Ankle
An ankle sprain injury occurs when one or more of the ligaments in the ankle are stretched or torn, causing pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. An ankle sprain is one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries in people of all ages. Many people try to tough out ankle injuries and don’t seek medical attention. If an ankle sprain causes more than slight pain and swelling, it’s important to see a doctor. Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, a severely injured ankle may not heal properly and could lose its range of motion and stability, resulting in recurrent sprains in the future.
A sprained ankle is an injury or tear of one or more ligaments on the outer side of your ankle. If a sprain is not treated properly, you could have long-term problems. A sprain can be difficult to differentiate from a broken bone without an X-ray. It can be important to tell your doctor what you were doing when you sprained your ankle. The doctor will examine it and may want an X-ray to make sure there are no broken bones.
The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion injury, or lateral ankle sprain. The injury occurs when the foot rolls inward, damaging the ligaments of the outer ankle — the anterior talofibular ligament, the calcaneofibular ligament, and the posterior talofibular ligament.
Understanding the role of Ankle ligaments
Ankle ligaments have several important jobs:
• Absorb shock when your foot strikes a surface.
• Connect the bones of your foot with your lower leg.
• Keep the bones in the proper position.
• Prevent your ankle from twisting, folding, or collapsing.
• Stabilise your ankle joint (formed by the lower leg bones and the talus).
• Stop your ankle from moving in any unsafe or unnatural directions.
3 Degrees of Ankle sprains
Grade 1: Mild degree of ankle sprain – Slight tearing of the ligament with mild swelling.
Grade 2: Moderate degree of ankle sprain – Incomplete tearing of the ligament with moderate pain and bruising.
Grade 3: Severe degree of ankle sprain – Complete tearing of the ligament with severe swelling, pain and bruising.
What are the symptoms of an Ankle sprain?
If you injure an ankle ligament, symptoms may include:
• Loose feeling in the ankle.
• Pain on the sides or front of the ankle.
• Popping or snapping sound.
• Swelling around the ankle joint.
• Trouble bearing weight on the ankle or foot.
• Weakness in the ankle joint.
Treating your Sprained Ankle
Treating your sprained ankle properly may prevent chronic pain and looseness. Swelling usually goes down in a few days when following the R.I.C.E. guidelines for a Grade 1 (mild) sprain:
• Rest your ankle by not walking on it. Limit weight bearing and use crutches if necessary. If there is no broken bone, you are safe to put some weight on the leg. An ankle brace often helps control swelling and adds stability while the ligaments are healing.
• Ice it to keep down the swelling. Don’t put ice directly on the skin (use a thin piece of cloth such as a pillowcase between the ice bag and the skin) and don’t ice more than 20 minutes at a time to avoid frostbite.
• Compression can help control swelling as well as immobilize and support your injury.
• Elevate the foot by reclining and propping it up above the waist or heart as needed.
Rehabilitating your Sprained Ankle
Every ligament injury needs rehabilitation. Otherwise, your sprained ankle might not heal completely, and you might re-injure it. All ankle sprains, from mild to severe, generally require three phases of recovery. This serves is a guide, not a diagnosis, or treatment plan, an assessment is required to correctly plan your individualised rehabilitation:
• Phase 1 may include resting, protecting, and reducing swelling of your injured ankle.
• Phase 2 may include restoring your ankle’s flexibility, range of motion and strength.
• Phase 3 includes gradually returning to straight-ahead activity and doing maintenance exercises, followed later by more demanding physical activity such as sports.
Once you can stand on your ankle again, our physiotherapists can prescribe exercise programs to strengthen your muscles and ligaments and increase your flexibility, balance, and coordination.
It’s important to complete the rehabilitation program because it makes it less likely that you’ll hurt the same ankle again. If you do not complete rehabilitation process, you could suffer from a chronic ankle condition. If your ankle still hurts, it could mean that the sprained ligament has not healed right, or that some other injury occurred.
As the rehab process progresses you may begin to walk again, or jog when the right milestones are reached.