Most of the staff here at Morley Chiropractic Clinic do one sport or another, and so are well acquainted with sprained ankles. However, it’s not just sportspeople that can suffer from them, wearing high heels puts you at risk, but so does simply walking down the street! But what is a sprained ankle, and when the inevitable happens and you do ‘go over’ on it, what can you do about it?
What is a Sprained Ankle?
Ligaments* are connective tissues that join bone to bone and provide stability to joints. When you ‘go over’ or ‘roll’ your ankle (the most common way to sprain your ankle is to roll on the outside of your foot) you stretch these ligaments beyond their normal range of motion. This force pulls or sometimes tears the ligaments, which is why a sprained ankle often bruises.
*not to be confused with tendons, which join muscles to bone.
How Bad Can Sprained Ankles Be?
There are 3 grades of sprained ankles:
Grade 1: There will be general soreness and possibly some swelling. The ligament will have been over stretched but it is unlikely it will have torn.
Grade 2: With this level there will be a partial tear in the ligament. This will cause prolonged swelling and pain and you may struggle to put all your weight on it. Because of the tear there may be some bruising as the tear bleeds under the skin.
Grade 3: This is a complete tear of the ligament. When a grade 3 tear happens you may have heard a popping sound at the moment of the incident. A grade 3 sprain is very painful and you will not be able to put your weight on the ankle at all. Your ankle will also likely feel very unstable due to the severed ligament not providing support.
How to Treat a Sprained Ankle
As with a lot of injuries of this nature, rest and time is the best cure. One of the best ways to lengthen the recovery process is to keep putting stress on the joint by using it. However, there are a couple of at-home treatments which can speed the recovery process up
Immediately – R.I.C.E – you can read more about the RICE Protocol in this article, but in short RICE refers to:
- Rest – let the injury rest so that the body can carry out it’s own healing.
- Ice – the cooling effect of ice will help reduce the swelling on an injury.
- Compression – this lends support to the joint that is now vulnerable along with also helping to reduce swelling.
- Elevation – by raising the effected limb above the heart you can further help reduce swelling.
Medication – Over the counter medication may also be of some assistance. Paracetamol can help lower the pain you are feeling and ibuprofen can help reduce any localised swelling. However, be wary when using medication. They may give you a false sense of ‘recovered-ness’ and encourage you to start loading the affected ankle too soon.
Longer Term Therapy – while your ankle is damaged you may be forced to limp or use walking aids to help you move around. You will also unconsciously hold your ankle in an unnatural way as your body tries to avoid the pain. This may lead to a loss of range of motion in the ankle. It is important to gain this movement back so you can function normally. This will involve an amount of careful mobility work.
You may also want to consider carrying out some strengthening work. There is an argument to say that once a ligament has been stretched beyond its normal range/torn, it is then more vulnerable to further strains in the future. However, you can negate this to an extent by carrying out strength work to build up support and stability in the joint.
Check out this article for some good ankle strengthening exercises.
With regards to treatment, the NHS offers this advice:
Get advice from 111 now if:
- The injury is not feeling any better after treating it yourself
- The pain or swelling is getting worse
- You also have a very high temperature or feel hot and shivery – this could be an infection
They also recommend that you attend A&E if:
- You heard a crack when you had your injury
- The injured body part has changed shape
- The injury is numb, discoloured or cold to touch
- You may have broken a bone and will need an X-ray.
Morley Chiropractic Clinic provides a range of treatments, including chiropractics and podiatry. We are more than capable of helping rehabilitate you after a sprained ankle, whether you are an athlete looking to compete again or not. To find out more simply contact us here or call 0113 238 3693.