A sprained ankle is a very painful condition affecting the ligaments of the ankle joint, resulting in inflammation and pain. An injury to the ankle can inflict a tear in the ligaments that hold the ankle bone in the foot. The function of the ligaments is to prevent unrestricted movement of the ankle. When these ligaments are stretched beyond their range of motion, they can get injured and cause severe pain. The treatment of a sprained ankle is determined by how severe the injury is and this condition has been divided into three cases: mild, moderate, and severe. The outer side of the ankle is most prone to injuries and the most common sight of a sprained ankle.
In a Grade 1 a sprained ankle, professional help is usually not required since there is no tear in the ligament. The ligament has only been over-stretched and is accompanied by stiffness, tenderness, and mild swelling.
In Grade 2, ligaments are torn and pain is more severe compared to the mild one. The joint might feel a bit out of place and movement is restricted.
In a Grade 3 sprained ankle, the joint is completely unstable, and moving the foot is almost impossible and excruciatingly painful. More than one ligament has completely been torn and there might be tenderness and bruising at the site of the swelling.
Causes and Risk Factors
A twist on the foot can easily inflict injury upon the ligaments and cause a tear. Most injuries occur while performing physically exhaustive tasks involving the feet such as running, walking, or performing the exercise. However, even a simple task such as going up or down the stairs or walking mindlessly on the road can result in a sprained ankle. One wrong step and your ligaments can get stretched too far. Tripping on objects or stepping on an uneven surface can result in severe damage to the feet, especially the ankles which are most prone to injuries.
People who are into sports or fitness are at a higher risk of having a sprained ankle. Sometimes having issues with maintaining balance while walking can also result in an injured ankle. Walking in heels or wearing ill-fitted shoes can also be a cause of a sprained ankle.
A sprained ankle is usually accompanied by throbbing pain and swelling. Moving the foot can seem like an impossible task and triggers intense pain. You might also observe redness in the area and walking can become an immensely difficult task. Due to an unstable joint, you might also experience muscle weakness. Some people also hear a pop sound when their ankle is injured indicating joint instability and tear in the ligaments.
Self-care and rest are needed in Grade 1 cases. Rest, ice fomentation, the elevation of the leg, and use of ankle brace are basic lines of management in Grade 1 sprained ankle. If the pain persists, call your doctor for assistance. Ice therapy is very effective in treating a sprained ankle and can help in reducing swelling and redness. Elevating the injured foot at a place higher than your heart will help in speeding up the recovery process. Along with these, you can take over-the-counter NSAIDs to help in pain management. Use of ankle binder or brace will help to keep the foot in place and provide rest.
If the pain still persists and there are no signs of healing, you might need to see a doctor. In Moderate i.e. Grade 2 cases, circumferential casting is required to restrict inversion-eversion of the ankle. A physical therapist can also help greatly in regaining the flexibility and strength of the ankle after the removal of the cast.
In severe cases i.e. Grade 3, your doctor may suggest an MRI if he or she suspects a very severe injury to the ligaments.
Being vigilant in general while performing physically demanding tasks or doing daily activities can greatly reduce your risk of sustaining an ankle injury.