You want do know about a sprained or twisted ankle (ankle distortion). If you sprain the ankle, walking on high heels, on uneven ground or by misstepping, there are 3 possibilities:
- The muscles of the lower leg spring into action just in time to prevent damage to tendons and ligaments. It can hurt, but after a few steps you can walk properly again.
- You sprain the ankle: the ankle can be somewhat thicker than normal and some days of pain could follow. The pain is not intense, you can walk quite normally, possibly with a bandage or more rest. Most sprains are like this: minor injuries, healing with home treatment: some rest and a bit of ice, maybe a bandage for a day or two.
- You sprain the ankle more severely. Usually the sprain is at the lateral side of the ankle, somtimes the medial side is sprained. The ankle hurts violently, swells, sometimes bruises, and you can not stand on it without pain. Healing takes longer. If the rehabilitation is not complete, this can leave you with weak ankles, spraining them again and again.
This pages will explain what you need to know and how to rehabilitate properly.
Anatomy of the ankle
The foot consists of a number of metatarsal bones, placed between the lower leg and the toes. Their function is to enable the mobility needed to walk and run. These little bones are interconnected by ligaments and form part of the ankle joint. Muscle tendons to move the foot in every direction lie along the joint. Spraining means that a number of these structures are stretched to and above their limits, or are even completely torn. Compare it to elastic: made to allow a certain stretch, too much stretch will tear little parts of it, or even tear in apart in full. Ligament tears are usually micro-tears. The structure of the ligament as a whole remains unchanged.
Ligaments consist of bundles of collagen connective tissue fibers. They form a joint capsule around the joint. The bundles run in one direction. Their function is to strengthening the joint, preventing extreme movements that would otherwise cause damage to the joint. Unfortunately, these ligaments have their limitations: if the force acting on the joint becomes too large, part of those ligament-fibers tear, or they tear apart altogether. If only little bundles of the ligaments are torn, that will heal all by itself. Problem could be, that a lower quality of fibers will replace the torn fibers. The new “scar tissue” is not as strong as the old fibers, is tighter and re-tears easier, thus leading to spraining the ankle again if not healed properly. The muscles, stretched to their limits, don’t give the support that is needed and spring into action to late and to little.
And that is exactly the reason why you want to rehabilitate properly.
On this site everything you need to know about sprained ankles and rehabilitation.
If large parts of the ligaments are torn off, a surgical procedure is often necessary. This happens more often in the knee but can also happen in the ankle.
A strained ankel means muscles or tendons are overstretched or torn. This is a serious condition that needs intervention in hospital. So as a summary: a sprained ankle means ligaments have been overstretched or torn partially or as a whole, a strained ankle means that muscles or tendons are overstretched or torn.
Spraining of the ankle can be felt like something is tearing apart (apart of couse from excruciating pain). During the sprain all sorts of other structures stretch or tear. Small blood vessels, for example, are torn, causing swelling and bruising. The ankle can still get swollen now and then even months after the sprain, even when full function is long restored. That is nothing to worry about.
The ankle becomes unstable because ligaments are torn (micro-torns most often) and muscles don’t spring into action fast enough. That is why a sprain often occurs again. Even standing on one leg is difficult on the affected side due to the lack of stability. You have to practice that again.
Chronic weak ankles
Generally, a severely sprained ankle needs time and attention to heal properly. Sometimes the problems of an instable and weak ankle become chronic. The ankle remains a bit painful, remains unstable, swells again and gets sprained again. You know you have weak ankles. As a result, you can become anxious to walk, run or wear high heels. By not training the muscles they become weaker, the ankles sprain more easily and you are in a vicious circle before you know it. That is why it is important to intervene quickly and efficiently and to rehabilitate properly.