Ankle injuries are a very common injury to the foot. The ankle is the point of connection from the leg and the foot. The joint is the point where the tibia (big leg bone), fibula (small leg bone) and the talus (top of the foot) all meet. These bones are held together by tendons and ligaments. Tendons hold muscles to bone and ligaments hold bones together. An ankle sprain involves the ligaments of the foot.
Ankle sprains occur when the foot is twisted in an unnatural way. While sports injuries have many ankle sprains, other common experiences such as slipping on stairs or walking on uneven ground can result in an ankle sprain. When the foot twists in a way that is not natural, the ligaments will be stretched.
Immediately after an ankle sprain occurs, there will be fluid leakage into the tissues. This causes inflammation and swelling which results in pain. Nerves are sensitized and the increase in fluids puts additional pressure on the nerves which causes an increase in pain. When this occurs, heavy blood flow to the injured area will often result in heat, making swollen ankles warm to the touch.
Severe pain, deformity of the bone, loss of feeling, and inability to walk for even minimal amounts of time are indications that you need to seek immediate medical attention. The ligaments that hold the foot bones together might become too stretched which can cause the bone to feel out of place or dislocated. A podiatrist will provide an examination to make sure there is feeling present, adequate movement, and that the tendons have not been damaged. If symptoms warrant it, an x-ray will be ordered to determine possible fractures.
One of the first things to do after an ankle injury is to apply ice to the area of injury. The immediate use of ice helps to reduce inflammation, but should not be applied directly to the injured area. Reducing the pressure on the ankle is another key step when treating sprains. This involves elevating the ankle above the level of the heart to reduce the flow of fluids. An elastic bandage may be needed which provides support for the ankle and prevents inflammation through compression.
Limiting motion of the injured ankle will help speed up the recovery. Using a brace or crutch is an effective way to limit motion and promote a speedy recovery. If properly addressed, ankle sprains can heal in a minimal amount of time. There may be some limitation as to movement, however, stretching and rotation of the joint can get it back to prior injury status.