Most people will suffer from a sprained ankle at some point in their life. The lateral ankle, situated on the outside of the foot, is one of the most frequently injured parts of the body among athletes and physically active people. Lateral ankle inversion sprains occur when the foot rolls outward, forcing the weight of the entire body to the outer edge of the foot and stretching, spraining or tearing ligaments (tissues that connect bone to bone) in the ankle joint. This type of sprain is common among basketball players and people who participate in sports that require a lot of running, jumping or sudden stopping and starting. Uneven playing fields, like those in baseball or soccer, can also contribute to ankle injuries.
But athletes aren’t the only people susceptible to lateral ankle inversion sprains. Many times, simply stepping off a curb or walking on uneven ground can cause the ankle to slip outward, resulting in a sprain or a tear in the ligaments of the foot. Studies show that weak ligaments, joint instability and old age also contribute to a greater risk of experiencing a lateral ankle sprain. In addition, females are more prone to this type of injury, because they generally have smaller muscles and looser ligaments, especially during pregnancy, which means they have less stability in the leg to maintain the ankle’s position.
It’s not hard to tell when an ankle sprain has occurred. People who experience the injury sometimes hear a pop or a snap. They also usually complain of pain, swelling, bruising and difficulty in walking, and these symptoms can be so severe that patients with the condition sometimes think their foot is broken. An x-ray can determine whether a bone fracture has actually taken place.
If not, your healthcare practitioner can effectively manage the condition. Proper care incorporates a variety of safe and effective techniques that can successfully reduce pain, prevent the buildup of scar tissue and restore proper motion to the foot. You should be aware, however, that ligament injuries often take long to heal, and that it could take weeks or months for you to fully recover from an ankle sprain.
For patients with lateral ankle inversion sprains, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is that there’s no quick fix for the condition. The good news is that your chiropractor can use a number of techniques to decrease pain and enable your body to have a quick and thorough recovery.
When you first visit your chiropractor with the condition, he or she will classify it into one of three grades, depending on its severity. If you only have tenderness on the outside of your foot, your chiropractor will probably classify the injury as a grade one sprain. With such an injury, the ligaments that support the ankle are usually only stretched, which results in minimal pain and swelling.
To begin rehabilitation for grade one lateral ankle inversion sprains, your chiropractor will probably suggest you remember the acronym RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. By resting your ankle, you can avoid exacerbating the injury, and by using a compression bandage around the ankle you can increase stability and prevent further inflammation.
A cold application, like an ice pack, will also help reduce inflammation and decrease pain. A cold application will constrict blood vessels, which reduces the flow of blood and inflammatory fluid, and numb pain receptors, which has an analgesic effect. You should normally use a cold application within the first 72 hours of an ankle sprain. However, when applying it be careful not to place too much pressure on the ankle, especially if it’s very sensitive or unstable. Finally, to further reduce swelling, be sure to elevate your ankle above your heart while you’re resting, which will allow excess inflammatory fluid to drain.
Finally, to help you fully recover from a grade one sprain your chiropractor will probably recommend a variety of stretching, strengthening and proprioceptive exercises. Stretching exercises will increase blood flow and improve joint function, strengthening exercises will increase stability to reinforce weak ligaments and proprioceptive exercises will retrain your brain to work with your damaged ankle, returning lost coordination.
If your chiropractor thinks the injury is more severe than a grade one sprain, and involves a partial tear of ligaments and moderate pain and swelling, he or she will probably classify it as a grade two sprain. Care for such an injury is similar to that for a grade one sprain, but applied to a greater degree. For instance, you may need to apply a cold application for three or four days, not just one or two. You may also need to use crutches to keep pressure off the ankle, and begin a more intensive exercise routine to ensure proper recovery.
If your injury is very serious, and involves a completely torn ligament, your chiropractor will probably classify it as a grade three sprain and refer you to a medical doctor for surgery. But even though conservative care can’t restore joint function to people who have experienced a grade three sprain, your chiropractor can help in the rehabilitation of a healing joint if you have such an injury.