Ankle sprains are a common risk for anybody, especially for athletes and those who exercise regularly. The ankle is a complex area joint and because of its position, it is at a great risk for injury. Sprains are the most common injury for an ankle, but there are different types of sprains and they each have different effects on the joint. Before you can effectively treat an ankle injury, you will need to know how to identify each type.
The Basics of an Ankle Sprain
Ankle injuries are often misunderstood. Many people confuse sprains and strains, but these are two very different injuries. Strains involve a tearing of the muscle or tendon while sprains are more common and they involve a tearing of the ligament as the result of a severe twist. Ligaments differ from muscles or tendons in that they attach bone to bone while the others attach muscle to bone.
The ankle joint has several different ligaments that keep it in place and keep the body stable. Most of the ligaments are positioned on the outside of the ankle, but there are a few on the inside, too. The three main ones are the anterior talofibular, the posterior talofibular and the calcaneofibular ligaments.
First Degree Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains fit into three categories. A first degree ankle sprain is the least severe of the three. The injured ankle in this situation might lose some joint stability as the result of a minor stretching of the ligament, but the injury does not last long. The person might also feel some slight pain and stiffness in the joint.
Second Degree Ankle Sprains
With a second degree sprain, the ligaments get stretched more and there is usually some slight tearing that occurs, too. The ankle area swells up and there is more pain than with a first-degree sprain. The ankle joint also loses stability with this category.
Third Degree Ankle Sprains
Finally, a third degree sprain is the most serious and causes the most pain and swelling. In this case, at least one of the ligaments in the ankle joint gets completely torn. Massive pain, swelling and instability accompany the third degree sprain and it takes longest to recover from this one, too. Ironically, though, since one or more of the ligaments get severed, the nerve endings lose feeling in the ankle area and the extreme pain generally disappears soon after the injury occurs.
Applying Ice to Your Injury
Applying ice to an injured joint is one of the best things you can do to help it recover. It is the second step in the vital R.I.C.E.R. method, but it provides the best relief for pain, bleeding and swelling. There are some things to remember when applying ice to an injured ankle, though. Remember these tips to enhance and enable a full recovery without causing any more problems in the process.
- Apply the ice to the injured ankle as soon as possible after it happens. Rest your ankle on a pillow or an elevated area before applying the ice.
- Crushed ice in a plastic bag works best on an injured ankle. It conforms to the area and it rests there without you needing to hold it. Other forms of ice, such as ice cubes, cold packs, frozen vegetables and others can also be used in a pinch, but crushed ice is ideal.
- Do not apply the ice directly to the skin. You could damage your skin with ice burns or other types of damage. Wrap it in a damp towel first to provide a barrier between your skin and the ice.
- Apply ice to the injured ankle for about 20 minutes every two hours. Do this for the first few days. If you are sensitive to cold, you can decrease the amount of time you apply ice to your skin. Elderly people, children and people with circulatory problems are also sensitive to ice, so keep this in mind if you are helping them recover from an ankle injury.
- Use your own judgment when applying ice to your own ankle. If you can tolerate the cold, leave the ice on for as long as you can stand it. Athletes typically leave the ice on injured ankles and joints much longer than 20 minutes. On the other hand, if the ice causes extreme pain, leave it on the injured ankle for only a few minutes at a time. A few minutes are better than not applying the ice at all.
- Do not rotate ice and heat. Heat can slow the healing process and even cause more damage.
Do not overlook the importance of ice in the recovery process for an injured ankle. It is a vital part for a full rehabilitation. Following these ice-related procedures is the best way to take care of a sprained ankle or any other joint injury.
Once a sprained ankle has healed, there will usually be some bruising and ruptured blood vessels that still remain for a while. Stretching and warm up exercises lessen the risk of a sprained ankle, but the injury can still occur as the result of accidents or simple carelessness. If an ankle injury occurs, seek professional help immediately to reduce the risk of damage and long-term effects.