Playing sports, walking downstairs, running outside on icy ground, even just going out to grab the mail – these are a few of the many ways people suffer a sprained ankle. In fact, three are about 23,000 ankle sprains in the United States every day.
Athletes, children, adults, and senior citizens are affected by this common injury. Most of the time, they are not considered serious. The next time you or a patient has a sprained ankle, however, you may want to change how you think about it.
But it’s just a sprained ankle!
While a patient’s sprained ankle may seem like a minor injury that will heal quickly, there can be lifelong consequences associated with it. The number of sprained ankles that go without proper rehab is alarming, and sometimes it leads to more than “just a sprained ankle”.
Consequences of ankle sprains
In the past year, a few studies have been done on ankle sprains to try and determine how they affect a person’s movement and lifelong health. The verdict appears to out, and findings show that we may not be taking our sprained ankles seriously enough.
Our ankles have a lot to do with how we move. Unfortunately, they tend to be quite fragile (those of us who have sprained an ankle from moving too quickly or tripping can attest to this).
Chronic Ankle Instability
One of the results of spraining an ankle on multiple occasions is chronic ankle instability. This condition is characterized by the “giving away” of the outer side of the ankle. It may happen while standing, walking, or other physical activity. It can also create pain, tenderness, and swelling. These long-term effects can cause a lot of discomfort.
Chronic ankle instability is often a result of multiple ankle sprains that did not receive proper care, rest, and rehabilitation. It’s especially common in athletes, but can affect anyone who doesn’t receive proper treatment after an ankle sprain.
A study about how the condition affects college students was published just last year. In summary, the results demonstrated that students who did not have chronic ankle stability were significantly more active than those with the condition. Less physical activity can lead to more serious health conditions further down the road.
Another potential consequence is surgery of the ankle ligaments. While not incredibly common, the need for surgery depends on how much discomfort the patient is experiencing. Surgery is an option if the regular rehabilitation methods prove ineffective.
Ankle ligaments can be repaired through surgery if the damaged ligaments are severe enough.
If a potentially lifelong condition and surgery aren’t enough to prove that ankle sprains should be taken seriously, there are a couple of other dangers associated with sprains. One of these is of course the increased chance of hurting that same ankle again. This is especially true if the first sprain did not heal correctly. The second sprain is often more severe than the first, as the ligaments are already weakened.
Another consequence of ankle sprains is that the injured ankle could become arthritic. This can happen years after the sprain. When most people think of arthritis, they picture the loss of function in the hand. Arthritis can occur in the feet and ankles as well. Early arthritis in the ankle can be prevented by receiving the right rehabilitation over time on the sprained ankle.
Physical therapy for ankle sprains
Most people don’t realize the importance of getting their sprained ankle examined and rehabilitated by a professional. This, however, clearly means the difference between a few weeks of ankle rehab and a lifetime of chronic pain. The sooner someone can receive treatment and rehab for the sprain the better.
~ Authored by Liz Lecomte
As a medical professional, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the most effective and efficient methods for rehabilitating ankle sprains. Check out the case study to find out how to rehab a grade 2 ankle sprain in only 10 days!