Joint Knowledge: Ankle Sprains

Sprained ankles can happen when you twist or turn your ankle in an awkward or unusual way. This can force the tissue that holds your ankle together beyond its natural range of motion and stretch or tear the ligaments.

Common Causes of Ankle Sprains

When you have an active lifestyle, there are often risks of issues like ankle sprains. Sometimes they are caused by falls that cause your ankle to twist. Sometimes you jump and land wrong when you come down, causing your ankle to twist or rotate.

Walking or running on uneven surfaces like the beach or a running trail can be risky since there’s a chance your foot can land on a surface that causes your ankle to twist. In some contact sports, another player may land or step on your foot, causing the ankle to overextend.

Signs of a Sprained Ankle

The signs that you’ve sprained your ankle can vary depending on the severity of the sprain. Some of the most common signs of a sprained ankle include:

  • swelling
  • bruising
  • pain, especially when you put weight on your foot.
  • tenderness to the touch.
  • a popping sound or sensation.
  • instability in your ankle.
  • reduced range of motion.

Who Is at Risk for Sprained Ankles?

Anyone can sprain an ankle, but there are a few factors that increase the chances of it happening to you. Ankle sprains are common sports injuries, especially in people who participate in sports that involve running, jumping, or quick moves to the side.

Not wearing the right shoes can increase the risk of an ankle sprain. This includes shoes that don’t fit properly, as well as shoes that are not appropriate for a particular activity. For instance, your risk of an ankle sprain goes up if you give in to the temptation to climb along rocks on the shoreline while wearing dress shoes. Always make sure that you are wearing shoes that fit the activities likely in your day.

You’re also at higher risk for an ankle sprain if you are just getting into athletic activities. It can take time to build both strength and flexibility, so take it easy while you are new to your physical routine.

Finally, once someone has experienced ankle issues, they have a higher chance of developing them again in the future. Carefully protect your ankles if you’ve had a problem with them before.

Managing Ankle Sprains

If you think you may have sprained your ankle, talk to a doctor about what you are experiencing. You may be able to take care of your ankle at home, but serious ankle sprains may need medical intervention.

The PRICE regimen of Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation is often all you need to start feeling better. For most mild sprains, two or three days can be enough to alleviate the discomfort. Apply ice packs for around 15 minutes at a time, repeating every two to three hours as long as you are awake.

You may have trouble supporting your weight on the affected ankle while it is getting better. Crutches can help you get around without putting any additional strain on the ankle with the sprain.

Compression bandages can provide both support and compression. This can ease swelling and help you start to feel better.

Supporting Ankle Health

Exercises that support ankle strength and flexibility can go a long way toward preventing future sprains. Your doctor or physical therapist may be able to recommend specific exercises to help stretch and strengthen the muscles that support your ankle.

Take it easy when resuming athletic activities after a sprain. You may want to do movement tests before you dig into harder activities to keep your joints healthy and protected.

Your ankles need careful and consistent care to keep them healthy and free from harm. Being mindful can help you support the health of your ankles and continue to enjoy the physical activities that you enjoy.

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