An ankle injury can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, loss of mobility and bruising or discoloration.
It is very important to note that after the ankle has healed, it is prone to injury in the future. One of the most common ankle injuries is an ankle sprain, where the ligaments gets stretched or torn.
Ankle sprains happen when the foot twists, rolls, or turns beyond its normal motions resulting from a fall, a sudden twist or a blow to the body. A person can sprain their ankle if the foot is planted unevenly on a surface, beyond the normal force of stepping. This causes the ligaments to stretch beyond their normal range in an abnormal position.
Ankle sprains that are less severe usually heal within 3 to 4 days. Those who experience a more severe ankle strain may take four to six weeks to heal. In this case, an individual may be advised to use crutches or a cane to limit weight bearing on the ankle.
During the first stage of treatment, providers usually advise patients to follow the RICE principle (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) for the first 24-48 hours following the injury.
- Rest – Limit activity and avoid any activity that causes pain. If it hurts, don’t do it.
- Ice –Ice the injured area for 15-20 minutes (longer may cause frostbite). A bag of frozen peas works well. If it feels too cold put a paper towel between the ice bag and your skin. Repeat this every 2 hours until pain and swelling subside.
- Compression - Lightly wrap your ankle with a compression bandage. Always start the bandage below the injury site. As you wrap, move towards the knee without leaving gaps.
- Elevation – To minimize swelling and pain, position the injured ankle at a level higher that the heart.
Individuals should seek medical care if:
- You have severe pain and cannot put any weight on the injured joint.
- The injured area looks abnormal compared to the other leg (other then swelling).
- You cannot move the injured joint.
- You cannot walk more than four steps without significant pain.
- Your limb buckles or gives way when you try to use the joint.
- You have numbness in any part of the injured area.
- You see redness or red streaks spreading out from the injury.
- You have pain, swelling, or redness over a bony part of your foot.
- You are in doubt about the seriousness of the injury or how to care for it.
Individuals can reduce their risk of an ankle sprain by:
- Avoiding exercising or playing sports when tired or in pain.
- Eating a well-balanced diet to keep your muscles strong.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Wearing shoes that fit well.
- Getting new shoes if the heel wears down on one side.
- Exercising every day.
- Being in proper physical condition to play a sport.
- Warming up and stretch before playing a sport.
- Wearing protective equipment when playing.
- Running on a flat and even surface.