Ankle Sprains: How to deal with them and when to seek help from a doctor
Running is a very popular activity in Singapore, ranked as the most popular sport activity as a form of exercise. With the current COVID-19 Circuit Breaker measures suspending group activities and closing sports facilities, we are seeing more runners on the roads, park connectors and trails as people are coming out to run as their regular dose of exercise.
Running is a very safe sport. It is non-contact, and with proper equipment, the risk of injury is very low. However, ankle sprains can occur especially when running off curbs and on uneven surfaces like trails. In fact, the ankle sprain is the most common soft tissue injury of the human body.
Here are some facts one should know about ankle sprains and how to deal with them.
What happens when one sprains his or her ankle?
An ankle sprain is essentially an injury of the ankle ligaments, usually the outer or lateral ligaments. The ligaments can be stretched or torn due to a fall or turning of the ankle in an awkward position.
How do you know when you have sprained your ankle?
The area of the ankle ligaments when injured will swell and become painful. The injury is usually caused by turning your ankle inwards or inversion. The more severe the injury, the more pain and swelling of the ankle.
What should you do immediately after the injury?
Stop running. Sit down and rest for a few minutes. Taking off your shoe and sock will allow you to assess the severity of the injury. Once there is less pain, try to walk and see how you respond.
How do you care for a sprained ankle?
Upon reaching home and whenever you get the chance, ice the ankle. This would help to reduce the swelling. As mentioned earlier, an ankle sprain is an injury of the ligaments. Torn ligaments will bleed, and icing will help reduce the bleeding under the skin and the swelling.
If you have a crepe bandage, apply it firmly around the ankle to reduce the movement of the ankle joint. Elevating the ankle with a foot stool when seated or with a pillow when in bed is very helpful too.
Will my ankle be affected after it recovers? Am I more likely to sprain it again?
Yes. Repeated ankle sprains will cause the ligaments to stretch out or worse still fail to reconnect. This leads to ankle instability and recurrent ankle sprains.
When do I need to see a doctor?
Sometimes an ankle sprain may be more than a ligament injury. Always seek treatment with a doctor if it is too painful to put weight on the injured ankle. The concern is the injury could be a fracture of the ankle instead and x-rays are required.
How should I start exercising again after recovering from a sprain?
The rule of thumb to return to exercise or running is being able to do the following
- Able to hop on the injured leg with no pain
- No restriction in the movement of the ankle joint
- The strength of the ankle is at least 90% of the normal side.
Dr. Ooi Lai Hock is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Medical Director of Island Orthopaedic. He holds dual sub-specialty areas of expertise in foot and ankle surgery, as well as hip and knee surgery, after receiving his sub-specialty training at the Perth Orthopaedic Institute, Australia.