What is a sprain?
A sprain, is one of the most common sports injuries. It occurs when the collagen fibres in the joint capsule or the surrounding ligaments and muscles are severely overstretched. It is often accompanied by bleeding, swelling and small tears.
At last, Saturday night! The chance to wear that new black miniskirt and the matching high heels. But, on the way to the underground, it happens: the heel slips into the grating, the foot twists, swells up and hurts. Typical signs of a sprained ankle. Of course, a sprained ankle isn't a tragedy. It usually heals very well. Nevertheless, a number of things have to be remembered to stop the sprain becoming a chronic instability. Read here about how to deal with a sprain properly and what the RICE rule has to do with it.
Signs and symptoms
The signs of a sprain are pain, swelling of the joint, bruising and limited mobility of the joints. As a general rule, we can say that the more swollen the ankle is, the worse the injury. If you can still stand and walk on the ankle after twisting it, it's most likely that nothing's broken. Nevertheless, it is advisable to consult your GP, or a sports doctor or an orthopaedic specialist to rule out a ruptured ligament or a broken bone.
Risk factors and causes
Ankle sprains often occur when playing basketball or when jumping or jogging on uneven ground. Knee sprains happen a lot in football, especially when the player turns on his leg while the foot is firmly on the ground. In contrast, thumb and finger joints are often sprained in handball and volleyball or when skiing.
Another classic injury is a sprained toe. This happens, for example, when we're walking barefoot and catch our toes on a piece of furniture or a half-opened door. Some people have weak ligaments and are more susceptible to sprains than others. People with high foot arches, delayed muscle reaction or weak muscles are affected more often.
Sprains are frequently suffered during sports. But there are products we can wear to prevent them (e.g. supports, sports compression socks or wrist guards). These products stabilise the joints and ensure that the joints are not sprained so easily. Sports compression socks are available from well-stocked sports shops. Ask for CEP socks. These not only stabilise the joints, but they also boost athletic performance. In addition, they promote rapid regeneration after training.
Another good tip: make sure you wear suitable and safe footwear. This also applies to going out in the evening.
How can sprains be treated?
Once the foot has been twisted, you should heed the RICE rule for first aid:
- R = Rest
- I = Ice (cooling)
- C = Compression
- E = Elevate
As with most sports injuries, you should stop doing whatever you were doing straight away. Start to cool the affected joint immediately. This makes blood vessels constrict, so less fluid leaks into the tissues and the swelling stays minor. Cooling also suppresses the inflammatory reaction, keeps bruising local and relieves pain.
Wrap an elastic bandage around the joint under slight tension. During the acute phase, it's best to combine the pressure dressing with an icepack, later with an ointment. Your doctor can also prescribe a medical device if need be. For example, the medi supports Levamed or Levamed active are suitable for this. These combine compression with a massage effect that promotes the healing process.
Depending on the degree of severity of the injury, there are also orthoses for the ankle joint. M.step from medi is a firm half-shell and stabilises the joint very well in combination with the shoe. The latest ankle product from medi is the Levamed stabili-tri: Levamed stabili-tri is a modular ankle orthosis that can be flexibly adapted to the course of healing, thus making it possible to provide functional (phase-adapted) care. During the acute phase, it immobilises the joint. The stability can be reduced step-by-step when the patient starts physiotherapy. This makes sure that the foot always has sufficient support for quick and safe mobilisation.
Treatment for a sprain is usually simple. The pain recedes within a few days and you can fully weight-bear on the joint after three months at the latest. However, in some cases, ligamentous injuries and swelling caused by a sprain can lead to chronic instability of the joint. This means that the joint is too lax. If you already have an unstable ankle joint, you are more likely to twist and sprain the ankle again. In these cases, it is a good idea to use an ankle support with an extra strap (e.g. Levamed active). This safeguards against recurrent sprain injuries.
Chronic ligamentous instability
Chronic ligamentous instability can lead to excessive wear and tear of the articular cartilage and the onset of osteoarthritis. This is why you are recommended to consult an orthopaedic specialist or sports doctor, even if the sprain seems harmless.