Ankle sprains are a common injury to the ligaments of the ankle joint that causes pain and swelling of the ankle. Ankle sprains usually occur due to inversion (rolling outwards) of the foot, which overstretches and damages the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle.
Whilst ankle sprains normally occur due to accidents, several factors make you more predisposed to acquiring ankle sprains. Certain sports (like volleyball and netball) increase your risk factor, naturally weak/loose ligaments or muscles can affect ankle stability, as well as damaged ligaments due to previous injuries.
In order to accurately diagnose the extent of the injury an extensive history of how the injury occurred, along with a careful physical examination of the joint, is necessary. An X-ray is usually required to examine the extent of the injury and rule out any fractures in the area.
Treatment depends upon the severity of the sprain and involves controlling pain and swelling, and immobilizing the joint to allow for healing. Following the RICE protocol immediately after the injury (in the first 48 hours), not only helps to ease the pain but also reduces the swelling. It includes:
- Rest: keeping the weight or any kind of stress off the joint
- Ice application: for about 15 -20 minutes, several times a day, in the first 2 or 3 days
- Compression: applying pressure through an elastic bandage (the bandage should not be too tight)
- Elevation: elevating the injured joint above the heart level helps to reduce swelling.
Proper rehabilitation is important in order to restore normal function of the joint. The ligaments often become loose or weak after the injury, leading to instability at the joint and making the foot more prone to twisting or rolling. A joint that has suffered a sprain is doubly at risk of getting another sprain in the future.
If you are concerned about a recent ankle sprain, or chronic pain from a previous ankle injury, contact our clinic at (07) 3823 5423 to book an appointment with one of our podiatrists.