Ankle Sprains: When Bungee Cords Fail
One of the original uses for bungee cords was to hold the undercarriages of World War I airplanes in place without adding a lot of weight. Some modern planes with weight limitations still employ them, but today you usually use them for securing things—suitcases to luggage racks, appliances in truck beds, tarps on a semi-trailer, or an overfilled trunk to the car frame. In your ankles, ligaments function rather like bungee cords to hold the bones of the joint in position. Sudden trauma can pull the cords too taut, resulting in ankle sprains.
Pulled Tight, Pain in Sight
You have ligaments along the inside and outside of your ankle joint. Normally, they stretch with your side-to-side movements and then contract again to hold the bones in place. When the sole of your foot is planted on the ground, but your leg is twisted, shoved, or pulled too far in any direction, the tissues are stretched too tight and become damaged.
The most common sprain involves the lateral ligaments, when your ankle tilts to the outside and all of your weight is put on the outer edge of your sole. If it tilts inward, and your weight lands on the inner edge of your foot, the inside connectors are damaged. They can stretch, sustain tiny tears, or rupture completely, causing grade 1, 2, or 3 ankle sprains.
You will notice the discomfort right away, from mild aching to sharp, severe pain. It may also swell and look bruised. When we examine your injury, we may also notice some looseness in the joint with a grade 2 injury, whereas a grade 3 will be very unstable. You may be able to put weight on a mild sprain, but with a severe one it will be impossible to walk without a lot of pain.
Stretching Your Treatment Options
You might be tempted to think this is a common injury and you just need to wait a few days and things will be back to normal. It is common—many thousands of people have sprained ankles every day—but just waiting it out may not be the best idea.
A mild sprain may respond well to home remedies like RICE therapy (Rest, Icing, Compression, and Elevation), but anything more serious should be examined. We can rule out other problems like fractures with an X-ray, and also determine how badly the joint is damaged with manipulation or an MRI.
You don’t want to fool around with ankle sprains. They need to heal properly to head off future problems. Think how limp an old bungee cord gets after it is stretched too far for too long. It just can’t hold things in place anymore. One sprain can weaken your ligaments and make you more prone to another. Repeated sprains make the tissues too lax and unable to function as they should. Chronic ankle instability is a complication of ankle sprains that haven’t healed properly.
Snap Back with Great Foot Care
In addition to RICE therapy, we may have you wear a splint or brace to help stabilize the joint as it heals. A grade 3 sprain may require a leg cast or a cast-brace for several weeks. When your sprain is healing, it is very important to rebuild the strength and flexibility of the joint with physical therapy. Exercises and stretches will go a long way toward ensuring that you regain function in your ankle. When you start moving around again, focus on activities that don’t strain your tissues until you have fully recovered. Then work into more strenuous movements gradually, until your joints are strong enough to handle the twists and turns required.
In Rego Park, Plainview, and Flushing, NY, the place to go for expert care is Aadvanced Foot Care Associates. Our team of podiatrists has over 100 years of combined experience treating foot problems of all kinds, and we will put that expertise to work for you. Call (718) 896-4433, (516) 822-9595, or (718) 969-2266 today and put your hurting joints in our capable hands. You can also request an appointment by filling out our online form. Your ankles may end up in such great shape that you’ll be ready to try bungee jumping!