Your ankle bone and the ends of your two lower leg bones make up the ankle joint. Your ligaments, which connect bones to one another, stabilize and support it. Your muscles and tendons move it. The ankles support the entire body weight and ankle injuries are very common. Each year, approximately 2 million patients are treated for ankle sprains and strains and ankle fractures are one of the most common injuries treated by orthopedists and podiatrists.
Ankle injuries usually involve a sudden, unexpected, loss of balance that results in a sharp twist of the ankle. The most common ankle problems are sprains and fractures. A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon overstretches. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments. Depending on the severity of the injury, it may take a few weeks to many months to heal completely. A fracture is a break in a bone. You can also injure other parts of the ankle such as tendons, which join muscles to bone, and cartilage, which cushions your joints. Ankle sprains and fractures are common sports injuries.
People who are overweight and those who wear high-heeled shoes are at an increased risk for ankle injuries.
Treatment usually involves RICE – rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Rest involves keeping off the injured ankle as much as possible. Crutches may be used to enable the patient to move around when necessary, without placing weight on the injury. An air cast or splint may be used to support the ankle for support and severe sprains may require a hard cast.
Ice is used to reduce swelling. Ice packs are usually applied for 20 minutes at a time every hour as long as swelling persists.
Compression involves supporting the ankle and foot with a firmly (not tightly) wrapped elastic bandage, compression stocking, or gel wrap. If swelling causes the bandage to become tight, it should be loosened immediately.
Elevation helps to minimize bruising and swelling. The foot should be kept above heart level as often as possible during the first 48 hours.