With such a high occurrence in the general population, it is important to know how to effectively respond in the event of a sprained ankle. This article will overview what an ankle sprain is, what the different kinds of ankle sprains are, as well as guidelines to follow when treating an ankle sprain. This knowledge will better prepare you to treat your own ankle sprain or anyone else that may need assistance.
What is a Sprain?
A sprain occurs when ligaments in a joint are overstretched or partially torn. Ligaments are the structures that hold bones together and stabilize bones across joints. Ligaments are present in nearly all joints as they enable joints to properly function and stay within the alignment of one another.
When an injury to the ligaments occurs, the area typically becomes tender to the touch and some range of motion is reduced. Typically the area will also experience swelling and inflammation as this is your body’s natural response to injury. The ligament injury can take anywhere from three to eight weeks to heal depending on the severity of the sprain.
What is the Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain?
When people injure their ankle they tend to use the term sprain and strain interchangeably, however, these are two distinct types of injuries.
Sprain: As discussed above, a sprain is an injury of a ligament due to sudden twisting of a joint or overstretching the ligament. This action results in a damaged ligament that can lead to decreased range of motion across a joint and inflammation.
Strain: A strain denotes that a muscle or tendon has been injured to the point that slight tearing occurs. Unlike a sprain, strains are typically caused by the overworking of muscles beyond their capabilities.
Surprisingly, both strains and sprains require similar forms of treatment during the onset. The main difference arises when more severe cases occur or that require surgical intervention.
When treating a severe sprain or tear of a ligament, a surgeon may need to reconstruct the ligament to retain proper joint function.
The treatment of a severe strain like a severed muscle or tendon typically involves surgery to reattach the severed ends and allow them to heal.
What is the Difference Between a Common Ankle Sprain and a High Ankle Sprain?
The general population utilizes the terminology of ankle sprain to denote a ligament injury to a ligament in the ankle joint. While this is accurate, there are actually many ligaments within the ankle that can be injured. To denote these differences, the terms common ankle sprain and high ankle sprain are utilized. Below is a breakdown of what constitutes a common ankle sprain vs a high ankle sprain.
Common Ankle Sprain
A common ankle sprain, as the name implies, is the most common kind of ankle sprain. This sprain typically results from an individual landing on the sides of their foot leading with the weight of the body pushing laterally on the joint. Depending on whether the rotation occurs about the outside of the foot or about the inside determines which ligament is damaged.
When an individual lands on the outer edge of their foot, it is considered an inversion movement. The inversion results in a sprained lateral ligament. When one lands on the inside of the foot, it is considered an eversion movement and leads to damage of the medial ligament.
Depending on which ligament is damaged will determine which range of motion in the foot that will be impacted.
High Ankle Sprain
A high ankle sprain, as the name implies, is the damage of an ankle ligament that is located higher than a standard ankle sprain. A high ankle sprain is typically caused by a twisting of the leg about the foot. This rotation affects the ligaments that hold the tibia and fibula together. These ligaments are located above the ankle bone and are why they are called a high ankle sprain. The sprain typically leads to pain while walking that radiates up the length of the lower leg.
The letter P in PRICE stands for protect and it signifies the need to protect the injured site from further injury. For an ankle sprain, the need to protect the site from further injury is very important. A sprain can weaken the integrity of a ligament and if another injury were to occur it could result in a severed ligament.
To protect against a high ankle sprain, the best methods to use are braces and crutches. Both of these tools allow minimal movement and protection against reinjury.
The letter R in PRICE stands for rest and it signifies the need to rest the affected area. For a high ankle sprain, this means minimizing physical activity relative to your normal. The concept of relative rest is used to describe that you should rest relative to your normal activity but continue minimal movements to retain a range of motion.
Some sprains genuinely require full immobilization of the ankle but many non-severe sprains do not. Utilizing the ankle lightly can help in the recovery process by promoting circulation and ensuring the ligaments do not shorten during the healing process.
The letter I in PRICE stands for ice and it signifies the need to ice the injury. Applying ice to a sprain is meant to help reduce swelling and to provide temporary pain relief.
To properly ice a sprain it is important to follow two rules of thumb:
- Duration – The application of ice needs to be closely monitored as ice can cause frostbite if applied for too long. Ice should be applied for no longer than 10 minutes at a time. Between applications, there should be enough time that elapses that allows the ankle area to return to normal body temperature.
- Barrier – In addition to closely monitoring icing duration, it is important to ensure you are not applying the ice directly to the surface of the skin. Find a cloth or paper towel that can act as a thermal barrier between the surface of the skin and the ice. This will also aid in the avoidance of frostbite injury.
Following these will greatly reduce the likelihood of developing frostbite when icing an injury.
24-48 hours after the injury, icing the injury becomes less effective as much of the swelling begins to subside. Rather than having to deal with the process of avoiding frostbite, you can try Hempvana’s Cold as Ice Gel to get that relieving cooling sensation.
The letter C in PRICE stands for compression and it signifies the need to apply compression to the site of injury. For an ankle sprain, this can be accomplished through compression bandages. When wrapping a high ankle sprain you want to make sure your wrap is tight but not too tight where it cuts off blood supply to the feet.
After the initial injury, wearing compression socks can be a great alternative to having to constantly wrap and unwrap your ankle.
The letter E in PRICE stands for elevation and it signifies the need to elevate the injury. For an ankle sprain, this is easily accomplished through the utilization of a leg ramp. The nice thing about Hempvana’s Leg Ramp is that it is fully inflatable, making it a great convenience to any parent of a child in sports. The quick to inflate and compact design allows it to be stored anywhere like a bag or in the car. Having an elevation ramp on hand is a great way to provide comfort and elevation for unexpected mishaps.
Overall, treating a high ankle sprain is the same way you would treat any other sprain on the body. By being informed of the different kinds of injuries, the differences between high ankle sprains and common ankle sprains, as well as the PRICE formula will better prepare you to be able to help others or treat your own sprain.
If you believe that the sprain you have is serious, contact your doctor as severe sprains require medical assistance to fix.