How Does A Sprained Ankle Feel
Ankles are among the most commonly injured joints in sports. Every year millions of Americans suffer sprains to their ankles, with about 1 million cases requiring surgery. But what exactly happens when you sustain such a serious injury?
A sprained ankle feels like a sudden snapping sensation. Immediately after injury, your foot will probably be very swollen and painful. You may also notice that your ankle is unstable — it’s hard to walk on it because it doesn’t have its normal range of motion. This instability can happen either from a severe ligament injury (such as tearing a tendon) or from a moderate one (like stretching a ligament beyond its natural length).
Sprained ankles occur most often in people who participate in high-impact activities, including basketball, football, soccer, tennis, skiing, dance and running. For this reason, athletes tend to injure their ankles more frequently than other parts of the body. Although sprains are not life threatening, they’re still quite painful and require medical attention to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
The structure of our ankles consists of several different bones joined by fibrous tissue called ligaments. Ligaments connect bone to bone and prevent them from moving relative to each other. When a person sustains an ankle injury, these ligaments become stretched or torn, which allows the bones to move too far apart. As a result, any movement becomes difficult, if not impossible, because the joint no longer has proper stability. If the damage isn’t repaired properly, the ankle may continue to swell for weeks or months afterward.
In addition to ligaments, there are two types of cartilage covering the ends of bones. Cartilage provides padding between bones and acts as shock absorbers. Because of this function, cartilage is extremely important for preserving healthy joints.
When we talk about injuries to the lower part of the leg known as the ankle, we typically refer to three specific areas: the tibia, talus and calcaneus bones. These three bones form what’s called the ankle mortise, which serves as the foundation for all movements made with the foot.
As mentioned earlier, sprained ankles occur most often in athletes participating in sports involving jumping, twisting, cutting and pivoting motions. People who play contact sports like football and rugby have a higher risk of suffering ankle injuries because they land awkwardly on their feet and roll around on rough surfaces.
Now let’s look at some common signs of a sprained ankle and how to treat it.
Signs of Sprained Ankle
You’ve just been involved in a major sporting event where you twisted your ankle badly. Now what? Here are some things to keep in mind when assessing whether or not you need treatment for a sprained ankle.
First off, don’t try to stand up without using a cane or walking stick. You’ll only aggravate the problem further. Also avoid trying to put weight on the ankle. Doing so could cause further damage. Instead, use crutches or call emergency services for help getting to a hospital.
Next, take note of whether or not you can bend your toes upward. If you can do so comfortably but find yourself unable to straighten your big toe, then you likely sustained a partial tear to your Achilles tendon. Call 911 right away!
Finally, check out the skin surrounding your ankle. It should appear red, moist and warm to the touch. Any sign of blisters or pus indicates that infection or foul odor means you need professional medical care.
With all of this information in hand, you’re ready to start treating your ankle. First thing’s first: stop activity until you receive medical clearance. Depending on the severity of your injury, you might want to stay home from school or work, depending on your job requirements.
If necessary, apply ice packs wrapped in a towel to minimize swelling. Elevating your ankle above your heart level will decrease swelling and relieve pressure on the nerves located underneath.
For minor sprains, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, heat and rest may provide relief. More serious injuries may require physical therapy. Afterward, follow your doctor’s instructions regarding recovery time.
Here are some tips on preventing sprains:
Wear sturdy shoes designed specifically for athletics. They should fit well, offer adequate support and conform to the shape of your foot.
Never wear loose fitting socks; choose ones that are snug enough to hold your foot firmly in place.
Always cross your legs under your hips before attempting to jump.
Don’t run barefoot. Your feet should always be covered with protective material, even during hot weather.
When playing sports, stretch beforehand to reduce your chances of landing awkwardly.
Keep your heels elevated while standing.
Avoid wearing footwear with low heels (less than 2 inches), especially those that make your feet look larger. Wearing these kinds of shoes increases your risk of falling.
Take frequent breaks when doing strenuous exercise to allow muscles to recover.
Even though sprains are relatively common, they aren’t commonplace. Most people get them at least once in their lives. And although many people heal quickly, others experience chronic problems that linger. To learn more about sprains, see the links on the following page.
Although the idea of rolling your ankle seems funny, it’s actually pretty dangerous. If someone rolls his or her ankle repeatedly, it can lead to permanent deformities. So why does someone do this? Some people think that rolling their ankle gives the impression of having a broken bone, thus avoiding a trip to the hospital. However, repeated rolling can affect blood flow and nerve endings, causing pain and long-term complications.
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