Sometime during your elementary school years, you may have learned about simple machines and how they help us move things. Over time, humans have discovered that levers, inclined planes, wedges, wheels, axles, screws, and pulleys all help us do our work more easily and with more force. Your ankle is a kind of “machine” between your leg and foot that allows you to stand, walk, run, and jump. When an ankle sprain occurs, the movement of that joint can come to a dead stop.
Ankle Design for Movement
The ankle joint is made up of three bones: the talus which lies just above your heel bone, and the two leg bones—the tibia and fibula. You can see and feel the bottom ends of these bones where they flare out to nestle around the talus; they are the visible bumps on the inside and outside of your ankle.
These bones are connected in various places by ligaments that hold them in place. Nerves, muscles, and blood vessels run past the joint as well to send messages, cause movement, and provide nutrients and oxygen for cell growth and repair. It’s a much more complicated machine than a simple lever!
This joint enables us to move around. It bends your foot up and down to allow your steps to glide smoothly instead of stomping around stiffly on a right angled limb. Strong ankles are key to good balance and performance.
When the Machine Breaks Down
Whether an ankle sprain is the result of weak tissues or a sudden, traumatic force, it involves damage to the ligaments that hold the joint together. The joint rolls too far to one side during activity and the ligaments on that side are pulled beyond their normal range. This can happen while playing sports, dancing, stepping off a step or curb, landing wrong on an uneven surface, or just walking in spiked high heels.
The degree of sprain is determined by the amount of damage. If the ligament is only stretched, you will have some pain and swelling but you may still be able to walk (grade 1). With partial ligament tears, the joint will feel loose and cause more pain when bearing weight (grade 2). If the connector ruptures completely, you’ll have severe pain and won’t be able to put weight on that leg (grade 3).
Repairing an Ankle Sprain
Mild sprains respond to RICE therapy and range-of-motion and strengthening exercises to get the ankle back in shape. We will guide you about weight-bearing.
Moderate sprains will require some immobilization with an air splint to keep the tendons in proper position as they heal. We will design follow-up stretches and physical therapy to recondition the joint once the ligament has healed.
A torn ligament may heal with just casting or splinting, but it may need to be repaired surgically. You may need to use crutches or a knee walker while it heals. Physical therapy and reconditioning will take longer—possibly two months or more. Follow our advice on weight-bearing to the letter to make sure the sprain heals completely. Not doing so can lead to ankle instability and more injuries in the future.
Find Expert “Ankle Machine” Repair in Colorado
An ankle sprain may not look serious but it is always best to have it checked out if the pain is still bad after a day or two. It might be a fracture, which has similar symptoms. The only way to find out is to have it X-rayed. Dr. Matthew Paden, Dr. Brett D. Sachs, and Dr. Dustin Kruse can examine your ankle and use manipulation and imaging tests to see the severity of the damage. That way, we can make sure you have the best treatment tailored to your unique situation.
Contact us at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center for an appointment to evaluate your injury. You can call (303) 423-2520 or request a visit on our website. Our Wheat Ridge and Golden, CO offices serve the population of Greater Denver, while offices in Evergreen and Granby serve residents of western Jefferson and Grand counties.
Photo Credit: Samarttiw via FreeDigitalPhotos.net