Loosening the Joints
People rely on the stability of their feet and ankles every time they take a step. You need your body’s “foundation” to support you to be able to move around at all. The feet and ankles were designed to do just that. Injuries like ankle sprains, however, can painfully destabilize your lower limbs and impair your mobility.
Understanding the Ankle
These injuries are common for athletes of all kinds. Your ankle is a major load-bearing joint. It handles the force of your body weight and the impact of your steps with every stride. It also provides the flexibility your foot needs to push off the ground as well as adjust to the surfaces you stand on. All of this movement and support means this joint has a high risk for injuries.
In order to be effective, your ankle has to be stable. This stability is achieved with ligaments that hold the bones making up the joint in the correct places. These ligaments have a very limited range in which they can stretch. A sprain involves straining one or more of these connectors past this normal range—sometimes even to the point at which they tear. This causes significant weakness and discomfort.
Impact of the Injury
Usually, ankle sprains are the result of a fall or sharp twist of the foot. Stepping wrong when you walk, tripping, or getting hit in sports are all common causes for this injury. The accident creates immediate pain. There is usually swelling and bruising around the ankle. Your foot may feel stiff and hard to use, as well as “give out” and buckle under pressure. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may or may not have trouble putting weight on the affected limb.
The severity, and thus the recovery time, of this injury depends on the amount of damage done to the ligaments. A mild sprain involves simply over-stretching the connectors and may cause minimal issues. A moderate injury may partially tear a ligament, causing a significant weakness and discomfort. A severe problem causes a total rupture of a connector and intense pain. It may be very difficult, if not impossible, to walk around after this type of injury.
Stabilizing and Healing
The risk of this condition is that, unless it is properly treated, the damaged ligaments won’t heal. This could lead to long-term weakness, increasing the odds that you will sprain your ankle again. Managing the injury when it happens, however, can help you restore your limb to full strength as you recover. You’ll need to have your ankle examined to determine the extent of your injury and rule out other possible problems, like fractures. Pequest Foot and Ankle Specialists can evaluate your condition and establish a plan for conservative treatment.
You’ll need to take a break from your activities to allow your joint time to heal. For more serious injuries, you may need to immobilize your foot in a boot or a cast and avoid bearing weight for a time. Ice the foot regularly to decrease swelling and inflammation. A compression bandage and elevating the limb when you can will help with this as well.
Once the initial damage is decreased and your ankle has started to heal, you should be able to begin physical therapy to rehabilitate the joint. You’ll need to strengthen and recondition your ankle to support your activities again. If conservative therapies are not effective enough, you may need surgery to repair tears in your ligaments.
Ankle sprains are common injuries, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be serious. You need to manage this injury carefully so that you can return to your activities as strong as before. If you’ve sprained your ankles, or have any other ankle pain, let Dr. Gerald Mauriello here in Belvidere or Hackettstown, NJ, take a look at it. You can submit a request through the website or call (908) 475-8750 directly to make an appointment.