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Martin Foot & Ankle

Ankle Sprains: Twist and Shout

Ankle sprainHinges are designed to swing smoothly back and forth. They’re usually nailed or screwed tightly to a base to hold them securely and allow them to do their job. If you yank hard on the door or lid and the hinge screws pull loose, however, it becomes unstable. It’s no longer able to perform efficiently. Your body has several “hinges” of its own, including your ankle. If something loosens the tissues that hold it together, like ankle sprains, your lower limbs are no longer able to support you well.

Sudden Turn, Instant Pain

Ankles sprains are a common problem caused by sharply twisting or turning the ankle. This can happen any time you land from a jump or a fall, or even just by stepping on uneven ground. The motion stretches the ligaments and tendons supporting the joint past their normal range, straining or even tearing them. This is not only uncomfortable, it also weakens the lower limb. The pain is immediate and the whole ankle swells. Sometimes it bruises as well. Generally the affected leg has trouble bearing weight, though you may still be able to walk.

Sprains have several grades: mild, moderate, and severe. A mild injury occurs when the ligaments are simply over stretched. Moderate sprains may include some partial tears of the connective tissues. Severe injuries involve significant damage, including ruptured ligaments. This makes the ankle extremely unstable. As a result it may be difficult to walk on that foot.

Serious but Treatable

Ankle sprains are deceptively simple injuries. Because many people can still walk on the affected foot, they do not properly care for the joint. Then the damaged connective tissues may not be able to heal correctly, making you more likely to sprain the same ankle again in the future. This chronic ankle instability can result in persistent pain and weakness, and even arthritis later on. To avoid all that, you need to have your joint thoroughly evaluated by an expert, like the doctors here at Martin Foot and Ankle. They can request diagnostic images to see the extent of the damage and help you determine your best course of treatment.

Mild and moderate sprains can often be remedied with conservative measures. The RICE model—rest, ice, compression, and elevation—helps bring down the swelling and gives your lower limb time to recover. You will need to take a break from your activities until your ankle has healed so that you don’t reinjure it. You may need a brace or wrap to stabilize it. If the sprain is more severe, you may need to avoid putting any weight on that foot until your ankle is stronger. Once the joint has recovered somewhat, you can begin to rehabilitate it so that it can handle the strain of your activities again.

In some cases, however, you may need surgery to repair ruptured ligaments. This results in a longer healing time and may mean no weight-bearing on that foot for a few weeks. Without fixing the torn tissues, though, your ankle will remain chronically unstable and continue to cause you pain.

If you’ve injured your ankle and you’re concerned it may be sprained, don’t ignore the condition and hope it will get better on its own. Sprained ankles can start out simple, but letting them go untreated can result in complications and long-term discomfort. Contact Martin Foot and Ankle for an appointment or more information today to take care of your joints. Visit the online contact page or call (717) 757-3537 to reach our offices in Hanover, York, Lititz and Lancaster.