Torn Ankle Ligaments
Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect bones to
each other. They provide strength and support to joints. In the ankle, injuries
to the ligaments, called sprains, are usually caused by unexpected twists of
the joint. A sprain can be a stretch, tear or complete rupture of one or more
of the ligaments that hold the bones of the ankle joint together. Sprains are
classified according to the severity of the ligament tear.
With a first degree sprain, stretching and minimal tearing
cause mild pain, difficulty walking, tenderness and swelling. There is no
bruising or loss of function. Recovery time is four to six weeks.
With a second degree sprain, a tearing sensation, or a pop
or snap is felt. There is swelling and tenderness in the ankle. Bruising begins three to four days after the injury. Walking may be moderately difficult. Recovery
time is four to eight weeks.
At the time of the injury in a third degree sprain, the
joint may slip out of place and then back in. There is massive swelling, severe
tenderness and instability in the joint. Walking may not be possible. Surgery
is sometimes necessary. Recovery time is six to 12 weeks.
Severe ankle sprains need medical care. It's a good idea to
be evaluated for a possible fracture. Then use RICE therapy: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Ice the injury as soon as possible. Cover your ankle with a
WET towel and place a plastic bag full of ice over it. A one or two pound
package of frozen corn or peas makes an excellent ice pack. They mold to the
ankle and can be refrozen for repeated use. Ice should be applied for 10 to 30
minutes on and off for 48 to 72 hours. Stay off your feet. Recline and elevate
the hurt ankle slightly higher than your hips. Compress the injury with an
elastic bandage. For the first few days crutches are advised, even with mild
Exercising before a sprain has healed may make it worse and
increase the chance of re-injury. Your body needs rest to make repairs. Rest
the sprain until it is pain-free. Take aspirin or ibuprofen around the clock to
decrease swelling and pain. These medications should not be taken without
approval from your healthcare provider if you have an ulcer, kidney problems,
an allergy to aspirin, or are on a blood-thinning medication.
You can reduce your chance of ankle sprains by following a
few simple tips. Watch where you are walking or running. Use a step stool to
access high places. Avoid platform soles and high heels. Exercise regularly. Do
exercises that will improve your ankle strength, and stretch your calf muscles
before and after exercise.