The feet and ankles work together to provide support and mobility to the body. A foot or ankle sprain is a soft tissue injury. Most often, a sprain occurs when an injury pulls, stretches, or tears the ligaments that connect bone to bone. Ligaments are bands of tissue – like rubber bands – that connect one bone to another and bind the joints together. In the ankle joint, ligaments provide stability by limiting side-to-side movement. Ankle sprains are not the same as strains, which affect muscles rather than ligaments. Sometimes ankle sprains occur because of a person is born with weak ankles. Previous ankle or foot injuries can also weaken the ankle and lead to sprains. A fracture is actually a break in the bone. Injuries are the most common causes of foot and ankle sprains and fractures. Many fractures and sprains occur during sports as well as tripping or stumbling on uneven ground.
If you have injured your foot or ankle, come in and see our podiatrist as soon as possible to determine the extent of the injury and develop a plan of care. Increased pain, swelling, bruising, redness, or difficulties walking after an injury are definite signs for immediate medical care. Treatment will depend on your injury. Sometimes pain and swelling are absent in people with previous ankle sprains. Instead, they may simply feel the ankle is wobbly and unsteady when they walk. Even if there is no pain or swelling with a sprained ankle, treatment is crucial. Any ankle sprain – whether it is your first or your fifth – requires prompt medical attention. If you have a broken bone, our podiatrist will attempt to “reduce” the fracture, which means lining up the ends of the bones so they can heal properly. If the fracture is “unstable,” meaning that the ends of the bone do not stay in place after a reduction, surgery may be needed. Stress fractures are treated with rest and immobilization. You will be instructed to stay off the affected area until healing is complete. Crutches and/or a special “boot” or cast may be used to immobilize the area. Sprains are also treated with a period of immobilization. Depending on the extent of your sprain, you may be able to resume activity quickly, or you may need to wear a soft cast or special “boot” and use crutches for a period of weeks.
There are four key reasons why an ankle sprain should be promptly evaluated and treated:
- An untreated ankle sprain may lead to chronic ankle instability, a condition marked by persistent discomfort and a “giving way” of the ankle. Weakness in the leg may also develop.
- A more severe ankle injury may have occurred along with the sprain. This might include a serious bone fracture that, if left untreated, could lead to troubling complications.
- An ankle sprain may be accompanied by a foot injury that causes discomfort but has gone unnoticed thus far.
- Rehabilitation of a sprained ankle needs to begin right away. If rehabilitation is delayed, the injury may be less likely to heal properly.