While walking with your friends in the streets of Montreal last weekend, you missed the curb and have had persistent pain in your ankle ever since? It could be a sign of a sprain!
There are many conditions that can cause ankle pain: Achilles tendonitis, Achilles tendon rupture, bursitis or a sprain. We will focus on the latter today!
Ankle sprains are frequently treated in physiotherapy because they usually occur during our daily activities.
They often occur while playing sports, but sometimes a misstep is all it takes to get injured. The biggest challenge during recovery is to regain stability and balance to prevent future sprains.
Physiotherapy is an excellent tool for this. So, if you have symptoms associated with an ankle sprain, such as swelling or inflammation, make an appointment directly with one of our physiotherapists.
Eversion, inversion, bones and the role of ligaments: understanding ankle sprains
First of all, what is a sprain? A sprain is the stretching of one or more ligaments. Ligaments are small cords that ensure the stability of joints. A sprain occurs when the range of a joint is exceeded.
In the ankle, ligaments are found on the inside (medial) and on the outside (lateral) of the foot, as well as between the bones of the foot. A sprain most often occurs towards the inside of the foot (inversion). A lateral sprain occurs when the foot turns sharply inward. It can also happen on the outside (eversion), but this is less common.
Stretch or tear of the ligaments, the grades of the sprain
A sprain is classified according to 3 grades or types. It is either a stretch (grade 1, mild sprain), a partial tear (grade 2, moderate sprain) or a complete tear (grade 3, severe sprain) of the ligaments.
What causes ankle spains?
As mentioned above, ankle sprains usually happen during sports. Sports that require sudden changes in direction, such as basketball or soccer, have a particularly high risk factor.
Running, when practiced on rough roads, can also lead to sprains. Inadequate footwear and increased training loads are other risk factors.
However, sprains are not only related to sports, as they can also occur in everyday life. A misstep, a brief moment of inattention, and before you know it, you’ve missed the curb step and ended up on your buttocks!
Pain, cracking sensation or swelling: what are the symptoms of an ankle sprain?
Signs and symptoms of a sprain are pain, inflammation, warmth, a change in skin colour (red or blue) or some instability.
Foot pain can be felt at different times, whether the ankle is in motion or at rest.
Note that the intensity of pain does not always match the degree of severity. In other words, the pain may be greater with a mild stretch than with a tear!
Depending on the severity of the sprain, other signs may include loss of mobility and difficulty putting the foot down, putting weight on it and walking. It is common for people with sprains to limp.
If you are having difficulty putting your weight on your leg and pain is very severe or does not subside, you should see a doctor to make sure there is no fracture.
What should you do if you sprain your ankle? How to relieve the pain? How can you reduce swelling and relieve any pain?
Did you just sprain your ankle a few minutes or hours ago due to a bad twist or impact? Here are our first aid tips:
- Stop the activity you are doing and give your ankle some rest. Rest must be partial, depending on your tolerance.
- Elevate your ankle. When sitting, rest your leg on a chair with a cushion. Do the same when you lie down.
- Apply ice in short periods of 5 to 10 minutes to reduce pain and swelling. Be sure to wrap a towel around it to avoid a cold burn.
- You can apply a bandage in the first few days following the injury (48 hours maximum) to give the ligament some support and a break, because it limits the movement of the ankle. Be careful not to make it too tight to avoid restricting the blood flow!
- Once the acute stage of the sprain is over (48 to 72 hours), you can gradually resume your activities and put more weight on your ankle, always within your tolerance. Consulting a health professional, either a doctor or a physiotherapist, can help you determine when to put weight on your foot and what activities to resume.
As mentioned above, if you have difficulty putting weight on the injured foot after a sprain, see a doctor immediately to rule out a fracture.
Can you walk with a sprain?
If you have just suffered a blow to the ankle or a twist in the foot, don’t panic! It doesn’t always result in a severe sprain! In fact, the most common sprain is the benign one, which corresponds to a simple pulled ligament. In most cases, you can still walk, even if you have a sprain.
In order to reduce the pressure on the ankle, you can use crutches or a cane during the acute phase of the injury.
Ice or heat on a sprain?
Applying ice to muscle pain is indeed one of the recommendations for relieving an ankle sprain. Cold is well known for its analgesic properties. It helps to reduce pain and inflammation.
How do you know if the sprain is serious and if a ligament is torn?
We have seen that the intensity of the pain is not an indication of the severity of the sprain. In fact, a simple stretching of the ligaments can sometimes be more painful than a complete tear.
Having difficulty putting your foot on the ground and putting weight on it can be a sign of a severe sprain. In this case, a medical consultation is strongly recommended.
The only way to know the cause and extent of your injury is to seek a medical diagnosis. This way, you can receive the right treatment for your condition.
How to heal and treat a sprained ankle? Physiotherapy treatment
Do not hesitate to consult a physiotherapist following the ankle sprain. A follow-up aims to promote the healing of the sprain, and to allow a safe and lasting return to physical activities.
The first phase of the physiotherapist treatment will help you reduce the pain and swelling, while maintaining the mobility of your ankle.
Different methods will be used, including a personalised exercise program, contrast baths, ultrasound or passive mobilizations.
Then, strengthening exercises or manual therapy will be undertaken. The stretching of the ligaments that occurs during the sprain increases the chances of a new sprain occurring.
Repetitive sprains can then contribute to chronic ankle instability. The physiotherapist will teach you various proprioception and stability exercises to help you avoid another injury.
A splint or proprioceptive tape can be used to increase stability and support during exercises.
In some cases of severe sprains, viscosupplementation or hyaluronic acid infiltration could be considered. This method promotes the healing of ligament injuries.
How long does a sprained ankle last?
The recovery time for a sprained ankle depends on various factors, such as the severity of the injury and the person’s experience with ankle sprains.
A mild sprain usually resolves within a few weeks, while a severe sprain that requires surgery will of course take longer to treat.
How can you prevent ankle sprains?
As we said, ankle sprains can be caused by a single false move or a missed step. Knowing that, it is virtually impossible to eliminate the risk completely. However, there are a few preventive measures you can take to reduce the frequency and intensity of sprains.
First of all, do not hesitate to consult a physiotherapist for prevention and education.
The most important tip for avoiding an ankle injury is to warm up before a workout. This allows the muscles to warm up gently. Wearing a brace and using propriocepttive tape can help reduce the risk of an ankle sprain, as it increases the stability and control of the foot.
If you are experiencing ankle pain as a result of an impact or wrong move, do not wait to consult a physiotherapist to help your injury heal.
He or she will help you recover to the best of your ability and, most importantly, will help to prevent a recurring injury.
Other sprains: wrist, knee and lumbar sprains
Sprains can occur in any joint. Common sprains include knee sprains, lumbar sprains and wrist sprains.
Knee sprains usually occur as a result of a twisting motion of the knee. It is not uncommon for ligament damage to be accompanied by meniscus damage. Knee sprains are common in sports, especially in the winter when skiing. It can also occur with soccer or running.
As for wrist sprains, they can be caused by a fall during which you catch yourself with the palm of your hand by reflex. It is also common in winter, especially when ice skating.
Last but not least,lumbar sprain is a third big topic. Have you ever heard of lower back pain or lumbago? Well, that’s what lumbar sprain is! It refers to an injury to the five lumbar vertebrae. It can be caused by a wrong movement, a fall or a trauma.
What is the difference between a sprained ankle and a strained ankle?
Actually, a sprain and a strain are the same injury. Sprain is the medical name for the injury, while strain is the common name for it.
Sprain, fracture or broken ankle?
Did your neighbor break his ankle while tripping over a hole? In fact, when we talk about a broken ankle, we are referring to a fracture. Fractures occur when the foot is dropped or twisted inward or outward. A fall or a wrong movement is enough to cause a fracture.
This injury can affect anyone, from the elderly to teenagers.
The fracture is generally disabling and often leads to difficulties in moving around. Various symptoms can occur: a feeling of numbness, bleeding, redness or swelling.