Ankle sprains are among the most common musculoskeletal injuries, both during sports and in everyday life. Despite being common, it’s crucial to take ankle sprains and their treatment seriously, as ankle sprains that are not effectively rehabilitated can lead to long-term ankle weakness and instability, increasing the risk of future ankle sprains.
An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments that work to support and stabilise your ankle. Most often this occurs to the ligaments on the outside of your ankle during an inversion ankle sprain where the foot turns inwards and you roll out on your ankle. This may damage the:
Ankle sprains can also occur to the ligaments on the inside of your ankle during an eversion ankle sprain where the foot turns outwards and the ankle rolls inwards. This may damage the deltoid ligament. Regardless of which way you sprain your ankle, the ligaments suddenly get strained past the point that they can safely handle, causing them to become damaged and painful.
You can twist your ankle during any activity where you lose your balance and roll on your ankle. Some of the most common causes and therefore risk factors that we see include:
One of the biggest risk factors for ankle sprains is a history of ankle sprains, particularly where rehabilitation has not been effectively completed to help restore the strength and function of the ankle ligaments. This means that the ankle ligaments cannot perform their role as effectively as they once could.
Other risk factors that have been studied include poor athletic conditioning, muscle and ligament reaction time and fatigue, a person’s balance, neuromuscular control and proprioception, and their position in sports.,, While early research showed that women had a higher incidence of ankle sprains than men, more recent research is showing no significant difference in incidence between men and women.
When you roll onto your ankle during a sprain, you’ll likely feel immediate pain and discomfort. You may also experience some swelling, bruising, weakness in the ankle, and walking on the ankle may become very painful. If your ankle sprain is so severe that you experience a tear in one of the ankle ligaments, you may also feel a popping sensation during the sprain.
If you have recently twisted your foot and rolled onto your ankle and it is now feeling painful, weak or unstable, then there is a chance that you have sprained the ankle ligaments. If that’s the case, it’s important that you have your ankle seen and properly rehabilitated.
Absolutely. Podiatrists are experts in the foot and ankle, having studied this area of the body extensively for at least four years. Your podiatrists will be able to diagnose your ankle sprain and its severity, assess whether any other structures have also been damaged in the process, and create a tailored treatment plan to get you back to full strength and function.
While you’re at home, try to avoid walking on the ankle immediately after the injury and avoid any movements that cause you pain. Usually, this painful movement will be caused by twisting your foot in the same direction as your ankle sprain occurred. To help reduce the swelling and manage your pain, you can use ice, applying it for 20 minutes three to four times per day through a towel or other covering so the ice is not in direct contact with your skin. If your pain is severe, you can use painkillers (NSAIDs) to help you manage the pain. If you have strapping tape available, you can also try strapping your ankle by following this instructional video. While you’re recovering, ensure you always wear supportive shoes that support and cup your ankle, and avoid heels, thongs or open sandals that allow your ankle to roll freely.
As the experts in foot and ankle care, your podiatrist will work with you to create a custom treatment plan to help get you back to full strength and function. Your treatment plan will very much depend on which ligaments have been injured, whether any other structures have been injured at the same time, the severity of your injury, your activity levels and your goals.
Here at The Feet People, our goal is to help you:
To help you do all of this, your treatment plan may include:
As ankle sprains are so common, many people take the she’ll be right attitude and decide to ignore it, thinking it’ll be fine and will eventually get better on its own. While it’s likely that the pain will eventually settle, the effects of ignoring the sprain and not seeking rehabilitative care can be lifelong.
Up to 20% of people who sprain their ankles continue to have joint stability issues after their injury, with ankle sprains being a leading cause of chronic ankle instability, a condition where your ankle is permanently weakened and less stable, which puts you at a much higher risk of recurrent sprains and other foot and ankle problems. Chronic ankle instability also increases your falls risk, which is the largest cause of disability among seniors and the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths. The injuries sustained from chronic ankle instability often mean time off and the likelihood of surgery. Here is an example of professional hockey player Trent Mitton, whose quality of life and career were being threatened by recurrent ankle sprains, discussing the impact of one of our treatment solutions - the Exo-Brace - that we prescribed for him.
We believe that prevention is always better than cure, so when you’ve had one ankle sprain, we’ll work with you to put in all the right steps to help reduce your risk of another sprain. Proven ways to help reduce the risk of sprains includes:,