There are many parts of the foot and there are equally as many ways to damage all of them. One area of concern is our ligaments. Ligaments are thin bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones together at the joints. This is not to be confused with a tendon, which connects muscle to bone. Ligaments are tight yet springy so that joints can flex and return to a natural position. When we sprain a ligament, we stretch it further than it wants to go and it gets mad at us by swelling and becoming painful.
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Sprains can come from any activity that twists the foot into an unnatural position. Twisting or rolling your ankle is the number one cause of sprained ligaments. These injuries tend to occur suddenly from a very identifiable cause such as jumping and landing on your foot wrong. The ankle is supported by four separate ligaments: the deltoid ligament, anterior talofibular ligament, posterior talofibular ligament, and the calcaneofibular ligament. (Don’t worry, we won’t quiz you on them). Any of these can be damaged or torn in a sprain.
A sprain comes in three grades of severity. Grade I is mild, usually with only minor swelling and pain. You should still be able to put weight on the foot as the joint is relatively stable. Grade II is, of course, a little bit worse; usually involving an incomplete tear in one or more ligaments. The ankle may not hold weight so crutches or a splint can help with mobility and support. Grade III is reserved for the most severe ligament damage. These ligaments have torn completely apart. You will not be able to move or put weight on the joint for some time.
If you suspect you have an ankle sprain, the best place to start is R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Over-the-counter pain relievers may also be used. Swelling for a Grade I injury will begin to lessen within 24 to 48 hours. If your symptoms get worse after home remedy, go see your podiatrist. Any Grade II or III injury will need medical attention for proper treatment and healing. A 2 to 4 week recovery time can be expected for minor to moderate sprains. Sprains that need casts or splinting could take up to two months for healing. When your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you’ll want to gradually increase your activity. Partially healed sprains will not be strong enough to hold the joint stable and your chances of re injury are high.
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Spraining ligaments isn’t hard to do, but its easy to avoid with some logical steps. Wear supportive shoes for every activity, especially sports. Strengthen your ligaments with simple exercises like ankle rolls or calf raises. While you’re sitting at your desk at work, cross your legs and use the raised foot to write the alphabet. Even if you don’t exercise your feet specifically, make sure to warm up muscles and ligaments with a good stretch before activity.
If you think you have sprained a ligament in your foot or ankle, make an appointment today. We provide urgent access to our doctors if you call 740-363-4373. Seeing your podiatrist can ensure a proper healing plan and save you money over other urgent cares or emergency rooms. Don’t delay!