An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments of the ankle joint. It occurs when you turn, twist, or bend your foot in a strange way. As a result, the ligaments that hold your bones together are torn or stretched, making it impossible to stabilize your joints or prevent them from over-rotating. As a rule, they usually appear on the outer side. Would you like to find out more about this injury? Here we’ll explain it in detail.
Symptoms of a sprain
Depending on the severity, you may suffer from one group of symptoms or another. However, the usual symptoms are:
- Pain. It is a normal symptom in any type of injury. It occurs due to inflammation and, in certain cases, due to partial rupture of some structure. The pain can become very intense, especially at higher severity. The area becomes hypersensitive and at the slightest touch you will feel great discomfort.
- Tissue swelling or edema. With the accumulation of fluid in the joint capsule from the rupture of blood capillaries and synovial fluid in the joint, the joint increases considerably in size. You’ll notice its deformity. Depending on our pain threshold, the discomfort will be greater or lesser.
- Functional instability. The inflammation itself as well as the pain cause a lack of functionality of the joint. This is the main reason why we stop doing everyday activities such as walking. If the effect is mild, we can maintain functionality, although we will feel some instability, since the fibrous cords are damaged and have lost their usual strength.
- Bruise or ecchymosis. After a few hours, you will notice an area with red dots or even a bruise. This is due to the rupture of the capillaries in the area where the sprain has occurred, something that is very evident in the ankle.
Degrees of sprain
To talk about treatment or how to cure a sprain, first of all we must know its severity. In many situations, over-the-counter pain relief and self-care measures may be sufficient. However, it is normal that you need a professional evaluation to diagnose the extent of the injury, in order to establish appropriate treatment.
Grade 1 sprain
In this case, the ankle ligaments are strained, but not torn. There’s no associated joint laxity and the joint allows full movements. However, you’ll have mild inflammation and mild pain.
Grade 2 sprain
Partial rupture of the ligaments is present. On this occasion, the pain is moderate and the swelling is more visible. Those who suffer this sprain usually hold some postures which are not very recommendable, called antalgic postures, in other words, they acquire positions with which they avoid the pain. In addition, you’ll also suffer from slight joint instability.
The symptoms also include swelling, ecchymosis and deformity. A bruise is usually visible in the affected area.
Grade 3 sprain
This leads to complete rupture of the ligamentous structure. The pain is very acute, in addition to a more noticeable deformity, almost instantaneous swelling and ecchymosis. This sprain makes it completely impossible to walk.
Recovery in these cases is slower, taking up to 1 year.
Treatments to cure a sprain
In this type of injury, the focus of rehabilitation is on controlling pain and inflammation. Likewise, you should pay special attention to relieving the affected area of weight.
The main protocol is rest, ice, compression, and elevation, more commonly known as RICE. Therefore, when faced with such an injury, reduce pain and inflammation by applying ice (a cold compress or a bag of peas). Next, we will need a compressive bandage for the damaged area and, finally, to promote the drainage of the swelling, the injured limb should be placed high above the hip.
Equally, use painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs and ankle supports to spread the load on the injured joint. In addition, depending on the degree of the ankle sprain, you have the option of using other measures:
- Grade 1. It will not be necessary to immobilize the joint. In fact, you’ll be able to move your foot quite normally. From the second day onwards, it is recommended that you do mobilization and strengthening exercises… However, before resuming physical activity and once you have recovered, it is advisable to set the joint with a preventive bandage.
- Grade 2. The protocol to follow is the same as above. However, it is advisable to add kinesiology tape from the second day onwards.
- Grade 3. The specialist must assess the injury to find out its extent. In these cases, surgery is usually necessary to reattach the torn ligament.
Exercise to heal a sprained ankle
The examples that we are going to provide should always be carried out under the supervision of a physiotherapist, who will progressively personalize the best possible treatment. With them, the main objective is to recover the range of motion and strengthen of the ligaments. When instructed, you can perform joint mobility exercises without putting on weight and then with weight.
In a lying down position and with your feet stretched out, move your ankle up and down and sideways, making diagonal movements. You can also try drawing the letters of the alphabet with your big toe. By the time you can stand on your foot, walk on the ball of your foot and then on your heel. Similarly, walk on the inside and outside of the foot. As you recover, spread your feet hip-width apart and jump. Fall first on the sole of the foot, then on the front and finally on the back of the foot.
Electro-stimulation to treat an ankle sprain
If you have suffered an injury, with the TENS you will be able to relieve the pain. But if you are in a phase of semi-rest, electro-stimulation will help you to reactivate the injured muscle. To do this, the following procedure will help you to improve your blood flow to promote its recovery and de-contract it so that it recovers its functionality.
On the other hand, prevention is always important. You can do this through a program called Explosive Force that will help you to strengthen your ankles, although it is useful for other joints, such as when applying electro-stimulation to relieve knee pain. Thanks to the device, you’ll work the fast fibers of the lateral peroneal muscle, making it more explosive and reactive to a possible sprain. You will provide it with the necessary strength so that, if you twist it again, it will produce a very powerful reflex contraction that will return it to the correct position and avoid greater problems.
Use electro-stimulation once or twice a week when you’re not training. This way, you’ll get ankles that are safe from painful twisting, but remember to start gently, as this program does cause stiffness at times.
Risk factors to avoid so you don’t hurt your ankle
The following factors increase your risk of sustaining such an injury:
- Wearing inappropriate footwear. Wearing shoes that aren’t appropriate for a physical activity may be responsible for increasing your chances of getting a sprain. In addition, wearing heels is more likely to increase your chance of getting a sprain, as the ankles are more vulnerable in these circumstances.
- Poor physical condition. Not having enough flexibility or strength in this area will predispose you to suffering a sprain when practicing almost any type of sport. Don’t forget that there are also electro-stimulation programs to strengthen flexibility.
- Previous injuries. When ankles have already suffered some injuries, the likelihood of re-injury is higher.
- Uneven surfaces. Running or walking on unstable or less-than-optimal ground increases the risk of this joint injury.
- Playing sports. One of the consequences of playing certain sports is the possibility of getting injured. And usually, your feet are the worst off. It happens more frequently in sports in which there are quick changes of direction, jumps… We are talking, for example, about basketball, tennis, soccer and one of the most injury-inducing sports (if you don’t do it properly) is running.
Can you walk with a sprained ankle?
If you suffer this injury, it’s important not to panic, as it will depend on the severity. It is essential to follow your physiotherapist or doctor’s instructions to the letter. This means that you should rest when instructed to do so, even if the swelling and pain have gone away. Likewise, we must fully complete the prescribed rehabilitation program.
In any case, if the expert gives us the all clear to walk with the sprained ankle, do not walk on uneven surfaces until you have fully recovered. If you only suffer a strain, in two or three days you will be able to walk, but in the case of a joint fracture and depending on its extent, the expert will be the one to determine the timeframe.If you are interested in health and sport topics like this one about ankle sprains, subscribe to our blog and you’ll receive regular new content.