Snap, crackle, POP! Ankle sprains are one of the most common complaints in young athletes but can also occur in any age group and lifestyle. Here is the “need to know” about sprains:
Inversion (foot twisting inward) ankle sprains are more common due to the anatomy of the ankle joint being stronger and more taught on the inside. The biomechanics of the foot tend to cause more inversion twisting more routinely than eversion.
Once they occur, they commonly come back. When the ligaments of the ankle are stretched, they maintain that elasticity to a degree. Consistent stretching on a rubber band causes the rubber band to loosen over time. In the ankle, the once tight ankle ligaments become loose and prone to allow that stretching motion to happen again.
Many people twist their ankle, thinking that because of the swelling, bruising, pain and even audible pop they have broke their ankle. This is a common mistake. The audible popping can be the tearing of the ligaments or even tendons. The swelling and bruising in ankle sprains can often times be as bad as broken ankles. It is not uncommon to have continual swelling and bruising for weeks to months after an ankle sprain.
There are surgical procedures to tighten those ligaments and the ankle joint capsule again. This is reserved for chronic ankle sprains and ankle joint ligament laxity. The most common procedure for laxity in the ankle joint is a small 2-3cm incision on the outside of the foot. The torn, stretched or strained ankle ligaments are put back together and tightened, providing a stronger ankle joint. This generally yields good long term results.
Conservatively, after an ankle sprain the best treatment is immobilization. This is done by way of an ankle brace. An ankle brace can be worn for weeks to months until symptoms subside. This does not heel any stretched or strained ligament but can help stabilize the ankle joint in the acute phase- reducing pain. Resting, ice, compression and elevation (RICE therapy) is also a great way to conservatively treat ankle sprains. Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication, under supervision can also help healing.
It is vitally important to see your foot and ankle specialists after an ankle sprain to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment of ankle joint sprains.