Living with a strained or sprained ankle can be challenging. Although these kinds of injuries are usually minor and rarely cause lasting damage, being unable to put weight on your foot can seriously impact your quality of life. Unless you have a sedentary job, for example, you may not be able to work while recovering. Fortunately, it’s possible to facilitate the healing process so you can resume a normal routine as soon as possible. Here is what you should know about strains versus sprains so you can take the right approach to recovery.
When a muscle or tendon stretches or tears, it is known as a strain. Strains are especially common in the lower back and legs, but they can also occur in the ankle. Symptoms include muscle spasms, pain, swelling, and limited mobility in the affected joint. Typically, you can treat a mild strain at home. To relieve symptoms and speed up recovery, rest the affected limb, ice the area, wrap the site of injury, and elevate the joint above the heart — or at least until it is parallel to the floor. If you don't notice any improvement within 48 hours, the strain may be fairly severe. In such a scenario, surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged tissue.
If you stretch or tear a ligament, it is known as a sprain. Ligaments connect the bones within a joint. The ankle is the most common joint in which to develop a sprain. Symptoms of a sprained ankle are similar to those of a strained ankle and include pain, swelling, and limited mobility in lower limbs; however, bruising is also common near the affected joint. Like strains, sprains can be treated with the RICE—rest, ice, compression, elevate—method. Over-the-counter pain medication and immobilization with a splint or brace will also help—unless the damage is severe. If that's the case, surgery may be the only way to repair the torn ligament.
If you think you have a strained or sprained ankle, turn to a podiatrist at New York Foot Experts for a comprehensive evaluation. With four convenient locations in Manhattan—including Harlem—their friendly providers make it easy to get quality foot care. At their state-of-the-art facilities, they treat everything from toenail fungus to heel pain. Visit their website to see what patients have to say about the attentive and personalized care they provide, or call (212) 385-0801 to make an appointment today.