Posts for: March, 2016
Last week we talked about ankle sprains. Now we move on to the other side of the fence, ankle strains. Just looking at the words, you wouldn’t think there’s much of a difference, but there most certainly is.
As a reminder, a sprain is an injury to the ligaments connecting our bones. A sprain on the other hand, is an injury involving the muscles and tendons. Similar to sprains, there are varying degrees of injury with strains. Sometimes, a strain could be a tiny stretch in the muscle due to overuse. Other times, a strain could be a complete tear in the muscle-tendon combination.
Our muscles are made up of bundles of fibers that gradually form into tendons that connect to our bones. In order to move our bodies, the muscle fibers and tendon fibers will contract and lengthen. When we over stretch these muscles, we end up with a strain. The bad thing about strains is that they can happen just as easily from a one time stressful event as they can from long periods of over use. The other problem with strains is that the injury could occur solely in the muscle, solely in the tendon, or at the intersection of both. Your podiatrist can determine where your strain has occurred and how severe it is.
The good thing about strains is that the general treatment for them is the same as a sprain. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE) is the first step and may be combined with stability wraps, support boots, staying off the affected area, or in the severe cases, surgery.
So no matter whether you have a sprain or a strain, start with RICE and then call your podiatrist to book an appointment. Chronic sprains or strains weaken our bodies over time, so even if the pain goes away on its own, you still want to make an appointment to discuss with your doctor the underlying causes and form a healthy plan to modify your activities. So forget Google-ing your pain away, whether it’s a sprain or strain, the FAAWC has the best answer.
Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on inside our bodies. When we experience pain we often run to the all-knowing Google and try to diagnose ourselves (usually with a life-threatening disease), but Google can’t give you a proper examination and it certainly can’t treat whatever is ailing you. When it comes to your ankles, some basic knowledge can save you the hassle of an Internet search and start you on the road to recovery faster.
One of the most common Internet searches involving ankles is how to tell the difference between a sprain and a strain. There is an important designation so we decided we could save you the search and put all the information here in two very helpful blog posts. Today, we will look at ankle sprains.
Ligaments are bands of soft tissue that connect our bones and help them move properly. If these ligaments are stretched or torn, you have an ankle sprain. This usually happens when the foot is twisted in a sharp direction very suddenly. Sprains are classified into three degrees of severity. Grade 1 is a mild sprain with slight stretching and damage to only some of the ligament fibers. Grade 2 is a moderate sprain with partial tearing of the ligament. Grade 3 is a severe sprain with full tearing of the ligament, rendering the joint unusable.
All three grades of sprains will present with pain, bruising, and swelling. If your joint feels abnormally loose, you may have a grade 2 sprain. If you can’t use the joint at all, you may have a grade 3 sprain. Your podiatrist at the FAAWC can help diagnose the severity of your sprain.
Treatment for all three starts with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Moderate sprains may require wearing a brace for a few weeks for support. Severe ligament tears may require surgery. You and your podiatrist can put together the right treatment plan for you to get you back on your feet fast.
Stay tuned next week to see why a sprain is different then a strain!
“Tendon rupture”, the words send a chill down every athlete’s spine. Even if you have never experienced anything like a ruptured tendon, just the thought of it is enough to make people stop and change the way they take care of their feet. Your Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel. These muscles are necessary for proper movement of the foot and leg and are paramount to the most basic of movements such as walking, running, and jumping.
It should be unsurprising then when I tell you that athletes who perform these actions with great or sudden force are the most likely to experience this kind of rupture. Sprinters pushing off for a sprint, tennis players suddenly changing direction to go after a ball, gymnasts flying off a springboard onto a vault, all of these actions involve direct and suddenforce on the Achilles tendon, which can cause a sudden rupture.
So how do you know if you have ruptured your Achilles tendon? The first and most common sign is a loud popping sound heard from the back of the heel at the time of injury. This is followed by pain and weakness. Mobility of the foot and leg will be immediately limited and tenderness, swelling, and redness will appear at the site of injury. In other words, you will definitely know if you have fully ruptured your Achilles tendon. Sometimes however, with a partial rupture, the pain is manageable, mobility and strength in the foot are only partially restricted, and some swelling or bruising may appear later.
Your podiatrist can determine if and how badly you have ruptured your tendon with an examination and testing. Many ruptures can be treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Anti-inflammatory medicines can help reduce swelling as well. Your doctor may also issue you a heel lift, to reduce strain on the tendon as it is healing. For severe ruptures, casts and/or surgery may be necessary.
Some simple things you can do to avoid a rupture include increasing physical activity gradually, wearing supportive and well-fitting shoes, reducing uphill running, and resting from activity if you feel tightness or strain in the back of your calf. Many people who rupture their Achilles tendon also suffered previously from tendonitis, so if you doctor has diagnosed you with or told you that you are at risk for tendonitis, keep a close eye on how your legs and feet feel during and after exercise.
We at the FAAWC are all about keeping you in the game and performing at your top level. If you experience any persistent pain in your foot or calf, don’t hesitate to make an appointment. A little prevention could save you months of recovery.
Everyone gets stressed once in a while. To overcome stress we do things like relax in the bath, go out and exercise, or have a drink with friends, but some types of stress are harder to get over than that, particularly when it comes to stress fractures.
A stress fracture is exactly what it sounds like, a small crack in your bone due to overuse or repetitive strain on a single spot. When it comes to your feet, the people most at risk for stress fractures are athletes. Running, jumping, or kicking a ball around can all lead to recurring pressure on the feet and legs. Imagine hitting a rock lightly with a hammer. One or two hits may not do much, but over time you can make a pretty serious dent in that rock. That is the same scenario for a stress fracture.
Many of you athletes out there may be thinking, “but I’ve been doing (insert activity here) for a long time and never experienced a stress fracture.” That’s true, most athletes will never have a stress fracture, because there is usually enough rest between activities to allow any inflammation or pressure to subside. But you still want to be cautious and learn to spot the signs of a stress fracture.
The most common sign and symptom is pain. This pain usually appears during activity, subsides quickly with rest, but then reappears the next time you go back to that activity. Swelling on the top of the foot or outside of the ankle may also be present. The metatarsal bones (the long bones between your toes and your heel) are the usual victims of stress fractures since they feel the greatest impact when you push off the ground while walking or running. These areas may be tender to the touch or even show signs of bruising.
Keep a look out for signs and symptoms of a stress fracture if you have suddenly increased the frequency or intensity of your workouts or if you change environments (such as changing from running on a treadmill to running outside). If you do suspect that you have a stress fracture, stop all activity immediately and go see your podiatrist! Repeated strain on a fractured bone may result in an acute fracture or even a full break. If these things happen, you can expect your recovery time to double at the least.
Your doctor can diagnose a stress fracture with a simple in-office x-ray. Treatments include practicing the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to help with healing. Anti-inflammatory medication can help with swelling. Your doctor may also prescribe the use of crutches, special supportive shoes, modified activities (like biking or swimming), or apply a cast. With severe injuries, a surgical procedure may be necessary to secure the bones during healing. Whatever you do, do not resume physical activity until your doctor says it is ok. It may be hard to sit out of the game for a few weeks, but if re-injury or chronic fractures appear, you could end up being out for the whole season.
I’ve said it time and time again, but pain is NOT normal. If you experience pain with physical activity, call the FAAWC right away. Don’t stress out over stress fractures, we’ve got you covered and can recommend the right treatment to get you back on track in no time.