Q & A
What is a Foot or Ankle Sprain?
A foot or ankle sprain is a soft tissue injury. Most often, a sprain occurs when an injury pulls, stretches, or tears the ligaments that connect bone to bone. The lateral (or outside) ankle ligaments are the most commonly injured ligaments during inversion ankle sprains. Grading
systems can be used to grade the severity of a sprain.
Injuries are the most common causes of foot and ankle sprains . Many sprains occur during sports. Football players are particularly vulnerable to foot and ankle sprains. Basketball players are prone to ankle sprains.
Tripping or stumbling on uneven ground is another common cause of foot and ankle sprains and fractures.
Pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking on the affected foot or ankle are the most common symptoms of a sprained foot or ankle.
If you have hurt your foot or ankle and are unable to seek treatment for it right away, it is best to err on the side of caution. The acronym RICE can help you remember what to do:
Rest— Rest the affected area. Stay off the injured foot or ankle until it can be fully evaluated. Walking, running, or playing sports on an injured foot or ankle may make the injury worse.
Ice— Apply ice to the affected area as soon as possible, and reapply it for 15–20 minutes every three or four hours for the first 48 hours after injury. Ice can decrease inflammation which directly reduces pain and discomfort.
Compression— Wrap an elastic bandage (such as an Ace® wrap) around the affected foot or ankle. The wrapping should be snug, but not so tight as to cut off circulation. This also helps reduce swelling and pain.
Elevation— Elevate the affected extremity on a couple of pillows; ideally, your foot or ankle should be higher than your heart. Keeping your foot or ankle elevated also decreases swelling.
When to Visit a Podiatrist
Increased pain, swelling, bruising, redness, or difficulty walking after an injury are definite signs that it's time to see a podiatrist. Podiatrists are doctors who specialize in the care and treatment of the lower extremities. Dr. Tien is the leading foot and ankle specialist in Orange County, so if you've injured your foot or ankle, make an appointment today. She can determine the extent of the injury and develop a plan of care to get you back in the game (or back to your everyday life) as soon as possible.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Dr. Tien will carefully examine your feet and ankles and take a complete medical history. She may also order imaging studies, including an X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI, to determine the extent of your injury.
Sprains are often treated with a period of immobilization. Crutches and/or a special “boot” or cast may be used to protect and immobilize the affected area. Depending on the extent of your sprain, you may be able to resume activity fairly quickly, or you may need to wear a soft cast or special “boot” and use crutches for a period of weeks. It is crucial to the recovery and prognosis of your injury to follow the weight-bearing instructions of your podiatrist.
Professional athletes may undergo surgery to repair torn ligaments. Oral anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, can be used to decrease pain, swelling, and inflammation. Physical therapy for balance training is often incorporated in the rehabilitation course after a foot or ankle injury.
Warming up prior to physical activity and wearing proper shoes can prevent ankle sprains. Avoid running or walking on uneven surfaces.
Content credit: apma.org
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