The Pain of the Sprain

istock 928084240 1 Just about everyone has sprained their ankle at one time or another, but there is some misunderstanding about what’s involved. Is it a muscle thing or a ligament thing? Are the bones involved?

Since we see lots of severely sprained ankles at our five Foot & Ankle Clinics locations, let’s get into what happens with these ankle injuries.

What is a sprained ankle?
A sprained ankle is an injury that occurs when you roll, twist, or turn your ankle in an awkward direction. This can stretch or tear the ligaments that hold your ankle bones together. The job of the ligaments is to stabilize the joints and prevent excessive movement. In an ankle sprain, the ligaments are forced beyond their normal range of motion. The most common ankle sprain involves the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle.

What are the symptoms of a sprained ankle?

You’ll know when you’ve sprained your ankle, as you’ll have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Pain, especially when placing weight on the foot
  • Tenderness when you touch the ankle
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Instability in the ankle
  • Popping sensation or sound at the time of the injury

Dealing with a sprain

Most ankle sprains can heal with the R.I.C.E. approach: rest, application of ice for 15-20 minutes every two to three hours, compression with an elastic bandage, and elevation above the level of your heart. You’ll also need over-the-counter pain relievers.

If your sprain is severe, we may opt for you to have some physical therapy. This will be needed to restore your ankle’s range of motion, strength, flexibility, and stability. Balance and stability training is especially important to prevent recurrent strains.

In rare cases, we may need to perform surgery if your ankle is not healing or if it remains unstable after a long period of physical therapy and rehab. Surgery could only be necessary to:

  • Repair a ligament that won’t heal
  • Reconstruct a ligament with tissue from a nearby ligament or tendon

If you’ve sprained your ankle and things don’t seem to be improving, or if you have a severe strain, please give us a call at any of our five locations in American Fork (801), 763-3885; Payson, (801) 765-1718; Springville (801) 491-3668; and Orem (two locations, (801) 226-2421 or (801) 765-1718).

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