Ankle Injuries: Types, Causes and Treatments
- Ankle Injuries
- Types of Ankle Injuries
- What is an Ankle Fracture?
- Causes of Ankle Injuries:
- Various Signs of Ankle Injuries
- What to do in Case of an Ankle Injury?
- How Physicians Diagnose Ankle Injuries?
- Treatment of Fractures
- Treatments for Sprains
- Treatments for Tendons Injuries
- How to Avoid Ankle Injuries
Ankle injuries are usually considered sports injuries but these are not limited to the sportsmen, athletes, and bodybuilders. Ankle injuries may happen to anyone. These injuries usually happen if you ignore little things such as walking on the surface which is uneven or by putting more pressure on the ankles while walking. These injuries cause painful and debilitating sprains. However, you can reduce the pain by using the ice pack.
Injuries in ankle may happen anytime and to anyone. However, ankle injuries or sprains are more common in the men (15 to 24 years old) and the women who are above 30 years old. Remember, women of this age are more affected by the ankle sprains and injuries. More than 50 % of the ankle injuries usually happen during athletic activity. Interestingly, more than 25,000 people in the USA get ankle sprains on daily basis. According to the medical registers, more than 1 million patients visit an emergency section of hospitals because of the ankle sprains. Ankle fractures and sprains are the most frequent injuries damaging the bones and ligaments. However, the tendons are also damaged in the ankle injuries.
Types of Ankle Injuries:
Fractures, Sprains, and Strains:
Injuries in the ankle are defined using the target site of damage. For example, the tendons, tissues, bones, and ligaments damaged during the injuries used for this purpose. The ankle is a place where three bones connected. These three bones are talus of the foot, fibula, and tibia of the lower leg. These bones then connected at the ankle with the help of ligaments. These ligaments are just like powerful elastic bands connecting the tissues to maintain the bones in their place while making it possible for a person to move. Tendons are come here to make a connection between bones and muscles so the ankle and foot can perform the walking function. Tendons also ensure the stability of the joints.
What is an Ankle Fracture?
An ankle fracture is a simple break in the bones. It could be in single or multiple bones. A sprain is a medical term which is used to define the damage to ligaments especially when ligaments are stretched more than their capacity. A sprain is a tear which could be microscopic. Tears always happen with ligaments and tendon fibers. On the other hand, a strain is direct damage to tendons or muscles as a result of extra stretching or pulling.
Tendon and muscle strains are very frequent in the lower back and leg. In contrast, there are two tendons in the ankle that commonly get strains. These tendons are called Peroneal Tendons and these provide protection and stability to the ankles. Overusing trauma may cause significant inflammation in these tendons. Sudden force, pressure or trauma may cause acute tears in the tendons. These inflamed tears called Tendinitis. These are microscopic tears and these accumulate with the passage of time if stretched continuously. This situation may lead to Tendinosis if proper treatment is not taken on time. Subluxation is a condition in which the tendons slip from the original place. This condition is also called tendon rupture.
Causes of Ankle Injuries:
Move the joint too far from the original position and it will lead to an ankle injury. Putting more force on your ankles and feet to work in an unnatural position causes injuries. Walking on an uneven surface is also a cause of ankle injury. Ankle injuries also happen during sports activities. Most of the ankle injuries in common persons other than athletes occur just because of the loose shoes, high heels, and unstable walking. What are other causes of ankle injuries? There is a list of other common causes. The ankle pain can be reduced by using an ice pack before taking medical aids.
- Falling or tripping.
- Landing unstable after a high jump.
- Running or walking on uneven surfaces.
- Sudden impact or jerk such as a roadside accident.
- Rotating or twisting the ankles.
- Ankle rolling.
Various Signs of Ankle Injuries:
Remember, the symptoms or signs of fractures or sprains in the ankle are similar. In some cases, the sprains are mistakenly considered fractures in the bones. This is why an ankle injury should be properly diagnosed by a physician at the hospital as soon as possible. Common symptoms include:
- Pain (mild or severe).
Inability to run, walk or lift weight using lower joints.
The sprains make injured area stiff but the fracture makes it tender to touch. In addition, the shape of the ankle will look strange or deformed. Patients experience mild swelling and pain if the strain is slight. However, the same will experience severe pain if the sprain is severe. Huge swelling will appear quickly in this case.
Acute tears and tendinitis in peroneal tendons cause swelling and pain. In addition, the injured areas of an ankle will feel warm when touched. Instability and weakness of the ankle and foot are common if there is an acute tear in the ankle muscles or tendons. This disorder may take several years to appear. Common symptoms are as given below.
- Foot arch will increase in its height.
- Instability or weakness in the ankle.
- Sporadic pain occurs in the ankle (outside ankle).
Patients with subluxation experience weakness and instability in the ankles. They may also feel pain in the outer bone. A snapping feeling is also common in the ankle bone in this case. By use of ice pack, you can get immediate relief from the pain.
What to do in Case of an Ankle Injury?
Consider the first aid as soon as possible. Try R.I.C.E technique for proper healing.
• Rest: It is essential to take proper rest in order to avoid further issues or damages in the ankles.
• Ice: Cold therapy is recommended to minimize swelling and pain. Use Coldest Ice Pack around the injured ankle for a short period of 20 to 30 minutes. This will show results within 48 hours. Don’t apply the ice cubes for longer on the injured area. Repeat the icing after 40 to 45 minutes in order to maintain the tissues. There are several methods of applying ice on the ankle injuries such as with plastic shopping bags, muslin cloth or towel. However, the coldest ice pack is the most suitable technique to use.
• Compression: This technique involves wrapping the injured ankle using an elastic band. This provides compression which keeps the ankle supported and immobile. However, you can take only gentle compression. Never compress the ankle too tightly. The too tight wrap may turn the injured area blue.
• Elevate: The technique of elevating injured ankles is good to minimize pain. Keep the ankle elevated at the level of your head by using a pillow.
Try to avoid unnecessary movement. It is also important to avoid putting weights on the ankle during the treatment. Ice packs will lessen the pain at a great level. However, treatments needed as soon as possible after the diagnosis. Patients ignoring the sprains and fractures in ankles may see chronic issues in the future. The most common but serious chronic issues include ankle weakness, repeated injury and most dangerous arthritis.
How Physicians Diagnose Ankle Injuries?
As a matter of fact, the medical examiner will definitely ask about the cause of injury (how and when it happened?). This will lead the doctor to check ankle where bruising and swelling is present. He will notice the level of swelling and bruising. A doctor will also ask about the level of pain in the ankle while a patient tries to move the ankle or foot.
In most cases, doctors recommend ankle X-ray in order to see the broken bones. He or she may also ask for X-rays of foot, legs, knees, and thighs to determine the associated injuries. This is a precaution. Take the MRI is necessary if the fracture is severe. The MRI report shows more details about the ankle injuries and impacts. A stress test is most commonly used by the doctors in case of stress fractures. This is an X-ray which is taken while putting stress on the joints. This provides enough details about the injury and the doctor can take the decision about the surgical operations.
Over the counter medicines commonly prescribed by the doctors to reduce or control the pain. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are some frequently used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for this purpose. Any specific treatment used depending on the type or nature of an injury.
Treatment of Ankle Fractures:
Both surgical and nonsurgical methods are in use for ankle fractures. The doctor may decide to use a nonsurgical treatment for ankle fracture if a single bone damaged without misplacement and most especially if the ankle still stable. In this situation, the doctor will use a brace to splint or stabilize the ankles. They use the surgical method for the unstable ankle. Simple metal screws and plates are used to stabilize the ankle. These are also considered good to hold ankle bones in natural position.
After these treatments, the ankle bones will take at least 6 weeks to heal. The doctor will recommend staying free. He will also recommend keeping the weights or pressures off the injured ankle. This allows the bones to stabilize and get the original place. The same technique enables the ligaments and tendons to maintain the natural position just like before. However, the healing process can take 6 weeks to 2 years depending on the severity of injury and precautions taken by a patient. Once the ankle bones, tendons, and ligaments are on their natural place, the doctor will go towards physical therapy. This technique helps to mobilize the ankle and foot after a long period of immobilization.
Treatments for Sprains:
Just like fractures, it depends on the level of injury. Usually, there are three types of sprains. Known as mild, moderate and severe. Surgical treatments are only used if the damage is severe and more than one ligament is damaged.
Mild Sprains: This is grade 1 and you can treat with the help of R.I.C.E technique. There is no need to use cast or splint in this case. You will be able to pure force on ankle very soon after the treatment. Usually, physical therapy such as stretching, moving and strengthening workouts recommended in this case. You can use ice pack also.
Moderate Sprains: This is grade 2 and you can treat also with R.I.C.E technique. However, the doctors may use supporting devices to support and immobilize the ankle. Similar exercises and therapies needed to heal the ankle in this case.
Severe Sprain: This is grade 3 is a complete rupture or tear of ankle ligaments. This takes a longer period to heal. The doctor will immobilize the ankle as well as the joints after physical therapy. In most cases, the doctors suggest strengthening workouts, physical therapies and other techniques such as R.I.C.E for the healing. However, surgical operation remains an important option if the pain lasts longer and the injury doesn’t heal after using the above-mentioned methods. For immediate relief of pain, you can use the coldest ice pack until you reach to a physician.
Treatments for Tendons Injuries:
The techniques or methods for tendon injuries are similar to the strain treatments. These are as follows.
- Use of splint or cast to immobilize the ankle.
- Medicines including injections or oral tablets to minimize pain.
- Strength, the range of motion and stabilizing workouts.
- Use of brace to support the ankle while moving.
- Surgical operations for tendon repairing and restructuring of the foot.
How to Avoid Ankle Injuries?
As a matter of fact, you can avoid the injuries by using precautionary methods. Athletes and sportsmen usually get ankle sprains, strains, and injuries. It is necessary for them to take high care while moving, running or walking. Use ice packs initially to reduce the pain. According to the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal & Skin Diseases, there are several methods to prevent ankle injuries during different activities.
- Give up playing sports or workouts especially if you feel exhausted, painful or tired.
- Use well-balanced diets to keep the bones and muscles stronger.
- Maintain your body weight.
- Stay watchful to avoid falling.
- Use perfect shoes as recommended by experts for a specific activity.
- Try to avoid the shoes with high or broken heels.
- Workout every day.
- Run or walk on an even surface.
- Wear proper gears during sports activities.