One of the most common injuries to the foot and ankle is the ankle sprain. The pain associated with a sprain is due to the tearing or stretching of one or more ligaments in the foot. A ligament is a thick band of tissue nestled between two bones and is often compared to a rubber band. When a rubber band is stretched and not able to return to its original shape, it looses its elastic properties, weakening the strength of the rubber band. When the ligaments around the ankle are stretched or torn, the ankle swells as the body’s defense mechanism to prevent further injury. There is usually significant localized pain and bruising. Many times, one or more bones in the foot may also be fractured. If not given the opportunity to heal properly, the weakened ligament allows for repeat ankle sprains. Remember the RICE!
When a sprain occurs, do not apply heat. Immediately apply ice to the ankle and a compressive bandage, such as an ace bandage. Elevate foot above your heart and see your podiatrist at once. Get plenty of rest and stay off your injured ankle. Depending on the severity of the injury, recovery can take anywhere from two weeks to several months. If left untreated, arthritis and chronic ankle instability can develop and persist.