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The Twists and Turns of Ankle Sprains

If you’ve ever used a rubber band to pull your hair back in a ponytail or hold something in place, you know that if you stretch it too often or too far, it can lose its elasticity and even snap. Ligaments are just like that. They can stretch and return to their normal position until one day they stretch beyond their limits and that’s when injuries happen.

The ligaments in your ankle hold the bones and joint in place, and stretch to protect them from abnormal movements like turning, twisting, and rolling. If the ligament is forced to stretch further than its normal range, that’s when ankle sprains occur. If the force is severe enough, it can even cause a tear in the elastic fibers of the ligament.

Severity and Symptoms

There are different levels of severity when it comes to sprains. With a grade 1 injury, stretching is slight and it is considered minor, grade 2 involves a partial tear and looseness in the joint, and grade 3 is most severe with a complete tear and instability. Symptoms will vary in intensity according to the grade, but typically they include pain, swelling, bruising, stiffness in the joint, and difficulty walking. No matter how minor or severe, ankle sprains should be given prompt medical attention. Without treatment, the condition can become chronic and is less likely to heal properly. This can result in weak ankles, which are prone to further injury. It’s a vicious cycle.

Treating the Twists and Turns

X-rays and MRIs can determine the degree of injury and reveal if there are any broken bones. Treatment will vary accordingly. Minor sprains (grade 1) are typically treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation, along with anti-inflammatory medication. Moderate injuries (grade 2) are treated the same, but with the possible addition of an immobilizing splint. Severe sprains (grade 3) will likely involve a cast or brace, and although rare, may also require surgery if conservative treatments fail. Recovery takes four to six weeks, and rehabilitation to regain strength, range-of-motion, flexibility, and function can take from weeks to months.

Ankle Sprains Can Happen to Anyone

Although this commonly occurs in athletes, you don’t have to participate in sports to sprain your ankle. You could just be walking along on an uneven surface and accidently step in a hole. Maybe you’re not quite used to wearing high heels, or you have to make a quick change in direction to avoid a dog while running. The point is, ankle sprains can happen to anyone at any time.

We might not be able to avoid them completely, but there are some things we can do to prevent the possibility. Maintaining muscle strength and flexibility is key, as is wearing appropriate shoes. Also, be sure to warm up prior to activity and pay attention to the surfaces on which you are exercising. If you feel any pain or fatigue in your ankle, listen to your body and slow down or rest.

If you think you may have suffered an ankle sprain, call us at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists as soon as possible. Dr. Craig H. Thomajan DPM, FACFAS and Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS are here to help. Call (512) 328-8900 or stop by our Austin, TX, location.

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