Sprained Ankle Ligament Damage

1) What is a Sprained Ankle Ligament Damage?

An ankle sprain is one the most frequent orthopedic and musculoskeletal injuries. A sprain is essentially damage to the ligaments in the ankle joint, which hold bones of the ankle together and also stop excessive twisting and turning of the ankle.

The ankle joint comprises of 3 structural bones which are:

The Tibia – This is the key bone in the lower leg. It bears the majority of the body weight. Its lower portion forms what is known as the medial malleolus or more commonly the inside curvature of the ankle.

The Fibula – Of the two bones in the lower leg, it is the smaller and forms the lateral malleolus or the outer curvature of the ankle.

Talus – The bone on top of the foot.

The ligaments are a complex structure of fibrous tissues which hold these three bones together and also prevent excessive movement of the ankle joint. The ligaments are elastic in nature and can stretch to some extent and drawback to their original shape during activities. However, when the ligaments are stretched beyond their normal limits, a sprain results. The intensity of the sprain could depend on the damage to the ligaments which could be either partially or entirely stretched or torn.

Every day, over 20000 people in the US alone are treated for ankle injuries through twisted, rolled or turned ankles. Although more frequent in sporty lifestyles, it could easily occur in routine daily activities. An abnormal jerk or twist can occur just by planting the foot awkwardly on uneven ground or applying excessive force to the joint. Any activity can result in a sprain.

It is important to note that the sprain is an aggravation of the ligaments. If the damage is to the tendons it is more serious and is known as tendinitis.

2) Causes of Sprained Ankle Ligament Damage

Some of the most common causes of the ankle sprain are:

– Planting your feet awkwardly

– Stepping on bumpy surfaces either on concave or convex surfaces

– Rolling or twisting the ankle inward

– Rolling or twisting the ankle outward

– Jumping from unusual heights

When an ankle is sprained, the blood vessels become weak and allow fluid to leak onto the soft tissues causing inflammation in the area. The white blood cells, which are the primary cause of the inflammation, drift to this area increases blood flow.

Due to the increased flow in the tissue a swelling occurs. The swelling is usually directly proportional to the aggravation of the ligaments. The swelling and the inflammation could also aggravate the sensitive nerves in the region, which could cause a pain or throbbing. Depending on the ligament damaged, the movement may exacerbate the injury. The entire area might also be warm and red due to the excessive blood flow in the region.

3) Treating a Sprained Ankle Ligament Damage

First aid for a Sprained Ankle Ligament Damage is to reduce the pain and help in healing the sprain quickly. The primary goal of the first aid is to reduce the inflammation which causes most of the pain and soreness.

Rest – Ice – Compression – Elevation (RICE- The first four letters which would help in remembering easily how to tackle first aid for ankle sprains)

Rest – This allows an easing of stress on the inflamed joints, allowing it to heal quickly. An ankle splint or brace provides the rest required by the joint. If it is severe you could also use a crutch to avoid further aggravation.

Ice – Applying ice to the affected area is one of the most effective treatments for sprains. It offsets the increase in blood flow which in turn reduces warmth, swelling, and redness which reduces the pain to a great extent. Application of the ice also prevents the development of further inflammation. However, the ice should never be applied directly but through a towel or cloth if an ice pack isn’t handy.

Compression – Compression through strapping provides support by immobilizing the ankle. However, ensure that it is not overdone in strapping it too tightly.

Elevation – elevating your leg while lying down or sitting in a reclined position (ideally above the level of the heart) allows the absorption of fluids which have leaked into the inflamed area.

Painkillers focused on anti-inflammatory effects like ibuprofen also eases pain and reduces swelling. However, it would be well advised to consult your doctor before medication unless absolutely necessary.

Generally, ankle injuries show signs of improvement in 3- 7 days depending on the severity of the injury. In case the ankle isn’t healing well, you are still unable to walk, or the ankle still hurts after two weeks, then you need a follow-up visit to a doctor to determine whether there is a problem which has not been found. Sometimes orthopedics may suggest light physiotherapy for serious ankle injuries for quicker rehabilitation.

In the case of RICE or over the counter medication not working it’s time to seek medical attention. It could be a fracture, which is definitely more serious than a sprain.

The symptoms which could indicate a visit to a hospital are:

– The pain is unbearable in spite of first aid and medication

– Cannot limp more than a couple of steps without unbearable pain

– No signs of improvement even after a week

– Extreme swelling

– Severe pain in the outer or inner bumps of the ankle

– No feeling in the toes or foot

– Cannot press the toes downwards or upwards without excruciating pain

– The swelling extends to the upper part of the legs

– The redness extends from the aggravated area to other parts of the lower leg

4) Preventing Sprained Ankle Ligament Damage And Other Future Injuries

The prevention of ankle sprains could be achieved from a combination of caution and wearing the right footwear. The right footwear provides the correct balance and support to your foot and ankle. The stability of your footwear possibly contributes the most to the prevention of ankle injuries.

In case you are planning to engage in sports or strenuous walking (hiking or trekking) or running wears high footwear, which apart from the stability, also provide extra ankle support. Platform soles or high heels, on the other hand, make you more prone to ankle injuries.

Should you engage in sporting activities on a regular basis, which is likely to exert undue pressure on the ankles, you could consult a physiotherapist for ankle exercises. These exercises could strengthen your ankle joints and prevent an ankle sprain in the future.