A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments that are responsible for supporting the ankle are stretched beyond their normal limits and experience a tear. These types of sprains are quite common and impact individuals of all ages. The sprain may be considered mild, moderate, or severe. It all depends on the amount of damage that occurs with the ligaments. Throughout this guide, you will learn various facts and tidbits of information pertaining to ankle sprains. Continue reading to continue learning.
What is the Most Common Type of Sprain?
According to medical professionals, the most common type of sprain in an ankle is a mild injury. In these instances, healing occurs with home treatments like icing the area, resting the leg and foot, and even over-the-counter medications that aid in the resolution of pain and swelling.
How Do I Know if My Ankle Sprain is Severe?
If you experience an ankle sprain that results in immense inflammation, severe pain, and is very painful to walk on, it is quite likely that you have a severe sprain. If you find that it is difficult to put weight on the ankle, it is a severe injury. In this instance, it is necessary that you see your doctor right away to make sure that it is a sprain or other type of tendonitis or bursitis.
What Happens if I Don’t Get Treatment for a Severe Sprain?
If you have a severely sprained ankle and do not get the right medical treatment and undergo rehabilitative therapy during the healing process, your ankle may immediately weaken. This means that you will be more likely to sustain another injury in the future. If you experience repeated sprains in the ankle, you may find that you experience chronic pain in the region, ongoing levels of instability, and may even develop arthritis in the ankle.
What are Ligaments?
Ligaments are very strong, fibrous-based tissues that connect the bones to other bones. Those located in the ankle aid in stabilizing the associated joint and help ensure that the bones in the area remain in their proper position. When an ankle becomes sprained, it is the lateral ligaments – which are those located on the outside of the ankle – that are most often impacted. A tiny tear may occur or a complete tear may occur.
What Happens if There is a Complete Tear in the Ligament of a Sprained Ankle?
If the ligament of the ankle experiences a complete tear, the ankle will immediately become unstable following the injury. As time progresses, damage to the cartilage of the joint in the ankle and the bones of the ankle may become damaged.
What Causes a Sprained Ankle?
A sprained ankle is caused by a direct twisting force to the foot and/or the lower leg. Numerous activities may result in this unnatural motion. Examples include walking or performing physical activities on a surface that is not considered to be even, falling, playing certain types of sports that require twisting motions, and slips.
What are the Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle?
In short, spraining an ankle causes immediate pain. Once it is done, it is hard not to admit that an injury has occurred – even mild injuries. In addition to this pain, the following symptoms will most likely be experienced:
- The foot, ankle, and lower leg may become swollen
- Bruising may occur in the foot, ankle, and/or lower leg region
- The impacted area will likely be very tender
- If the ligament has completely torn, there will be a high level of instability of the ankle
- If the sprain is severe, it could result in the dislocation of the joint located within the ankle
What are the Grades Associated with Ankle Sprains?
Generally speaking, there are three grades of ankle sprains.
- Grade 1 is considered a mild sprain and it results in a slight stretching and a very small tearing of the ligament. There will be slight tenderness and swelling.
- Grade 2 is a moderate sprain that results from a partial tear of the ligament. There will be moderate tenderness and swelling. When moved in certain directions by a doctor, the ankle joint may be abnormally loose.
- Grade 3 is considered to be a severe sprain. It means that the ligament has completely torn. There will be a high level of tenderness, pain, and swelling near the site of the injury. When pushed on by a doctor, a very substantial amount of instability will occur. If treatment and rehabilitation is not pursued with a Grade 3 ankle sprain, severe difficulties will likely arise in the future including the fact that it may become re-injured.
What is the Three-Phase Treatment for Sprained Ankles?
In nearly all instances of sprained ankles, the injury may be treated without resorting to surgical interventions. This includes those that result in a complete tear of the ligament, but only if the ankle is immobilized immediately and in an appropriate manner. The following outlines the three-phase treatment and includes a brief description of each of the phases to enhance your understanding:
- Phase 1 – This level of treatment involves protecting the ankle and resting it so that the swelling and pain is reduced.
- Phase 2– In this phase, a focus should be placed on restoring the natural range of motion of the ankle, increasing the strength of the ankle, and improving the flexibility of the ankle.
- Phase 3 – This phase includes maintenance-based exercises or physical activities that help in the return to normal everyday activities that do not involve the twisting or quick turning of the impacted ankle. As time progresses, it will be possible to integrate said activities back into the physical activities that the patient is able to perform regularly. In severe ankle sprains, this phase often includes rehabilitation therapy that is offered by a licensed physical therapist.
What are the Best Home Treatments for Sprained Ankles?
The best home treatment for a sprained ankle is known as the “RICE Protocol”. This includes the following:
- R – Resting the ankle and avoiding walking on it
- I – Ice should be applied up to four times a day for a total of 20 to 30 minutes in an effort to reduce the swelling
- C – Compression dressings, ace wraps, and similar products should be used on the ankle in order to successfully immobilize and provide a high level of support
- E – Elevating the ankle above where the heart is located within the first two days to optimize the healing process
In addition to this, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or “NSAIDs” may be used to help in the control of the pain and the natural swelling that will occur with a sprained ankle. Examples of these medications include naproxen and ibuprofen. Narcotic pain medicines are no longer advised and are not typically prescribed for a sprained ankle. If one suffers from immense pain, combinations of acetaminophen and NSAIDS may be used to block the pain signals to the brain and to address the pain and swelling at its source.
What are the Most Common Non-Surgical Treatments for Sprained Ankle?
In most instances, the RICE protocol and a combination of over-the-counter medications will successfully treat a sprained ankle. In addition to these treatments, immobilization, the use of crutches, and physical therapy are commonly used to aid in the healing process.
What is the Best Treatment for a Sprained Ankle?
Physical therapy is considered to be the best treatment for a sprained ankle – especially Grade 2 and Grade 3 injuries. The physical activities performed in this type of ankle rehabilitation are designed to increase the strength of the ankle, reduce swelling, eliminate stiffness, and prevent chronic-based ankle problems from occurring.
The following outlines the most common techniques utilized by physical therapists that are working with patients with an ankle sprain:
- Early Motion – This involves performing exercises for range of motion without introducing any type of resistance.
- Strengthening – Once it is possible to bear weight without immense levels of pain and without increased swelling, exercises to strengthen the front and back of the foot muscles and tendons are introduced. If these are too difficult to perform, they may be done in a water environment or as tolerated.
- Balance Training – For those at risk for ankle instability, balance training is integrated into rehabilitative therapy.
- Endurance – Finally, when the pain is gone, endurance exercises are performed. The overall goal is to optimize the strength of the region and to improve the general range of motion. During this time, resistance exercises may be added to the program to assist in a successful recovery.
Contact Us Today
If you are endured a sprained ankle, we here at Back to Motion Physical Therapy encourage you to contact us today. We will work closely with you and your doctor to create a customized rehabilitation program for your individual needs. Our goal is to ensure that you successfully heal and strengthen the area so that you do not experience future problems with your ankle and are not at risk for further complications.