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Know Your Limits: What Makes an Ankle Sprain

Click, click, click. The rollercoaster shimmies up the rails as you try not to look down. When you reach the peak and start to head down, you’re past the point of no return—much like an ankle sprain. You might not scream as loud when you injure the joint as you would on a rollercoaster ride, but you may feel like it!

Ankle Sprain and BracePushed Past the Limit

When you suffer a sprain, the ligaments in your ankle are forced to stretch past the elasticity threshold that they’re used to, unable to return to their regular position. Normally, they work like a rubber band, pulling and twisting to accommodate your movement, and finally returning to their normal tension. The ligaments protect your ankle from abnormal motion and hold it in place.

Ankle Sprain Equals Pain

When a sprain happens, your ligaments are thrown off kilter. How off balance they become depends on how badly you sprained the ankle. In severe cases, the ligaments completely tear apart. The area also looks deformed, which will most likely immobilize you and cause immediate pain and swelling. This grade of sprain will put you at a longer recovery time and might require surgery if it’s really bad.

A moderate sprain will exhibit a degree of tenderness and swelling, and decreased range of motion or lack of any motion at all. That’s because some of your ankle ligaments are torn, some are not. You’ll most likely need some physical therapy to regain motion, plus a period of rest in a cast or splint.

A mild sprain won’t require you to wear a cast of any sort, but you still can’t participate in normal activities until your sprain has fully healed. You will feel mild tenderness and swelling, but the pain will be minimal. With a Grade 1 sprain, you’ve only experienced slight stretching which has resulted in some small damage to the ligament.

Don’t Walk it Off: Come to our Office

Getting treatment at the McDowell Podiatry Group is simple. We specialize in sports injuries and will even offer same-day treatment for traumatic ones. Our first recommendation is that you rest, ice, compress, and elevate the sprain immediately after it happens. Ice should be applied for 10 to 20 minutes and then removed for 10 minutes.

After the initial treatment, we really would like to see you so we can listen to your concerns, decide on the best treatment, and recommend some rehab methods that will get you walking again and regaining your balance. The period of rest we recommend will depend on your injury, but in the meantime we will help you focus on some exercises you can do to keep the area flexible.

However, we don’t recommend that you try to walk on your ankle before it’s fully healed. If you don’t follow the right treatment for a sprain, you could be looking at loss of motion, arthritis, chronic pain, development of other foot conditions, and possible re-injury.

A simple method to regain strength while you’re recovering is to put a towel behind the ball of your foot and pull both ends toward you. Move your ankle left, right, up, and down against the pull of the towel three times a day to stay limber.

An ankle sprain is nothing you should suffer through or walk off. It’s serious enough to warrant help from a podiatrist like Dr. Brian McDowell. To schedule an appointment, call the McDowell Podiatry Group at (916) 961-3434 and we promise we’ll make time for your injury. Keep in touch by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Photo Credit: Artur84 via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dr. Brian McDowell
Dr. Brian McDowell, board-certified podiatrist, provides cutting-edge foot and ankle care in Carmichael, CA.