What is an Ankle Ligament Injury?
An ankle ligament injury, also known as an ankle sprain, can be caused by a sudden twisting movement of the foot during any athletic event or during daily activities. It is one of the most common orthopaedic injuries and can also be caused by walking down a slope or over any uneven surface. The injury can range from mild to severe, depending on the condition of the injured ligament and the number of ligaments involved.
Ligaments are made up of elastic tissues that interconnect bones to one another. They bind the joint together providing stability and support to the joint. The ligaments protect the ankle joint from abnormal rotation and stabilize the joint during movement. When stretched beyond its limit, the ligament may partially or completely tear.
What are the Causes of Ankle Ligament Injuries?
Ankle ligament injuries may be caused by a sudden twist, fall, a blow to the joint or any abnormal movement. Use of inappropriate shoes during physical activity or any forceful movement over an uneven surface may also cause a ligament injury. Previous ankle or foot injuries and congenitally weak ankles increase the propensity for an ankle sprain.
What are the Symptoms of an Ankle Ligament Injury?
Pain is the most common symptom of an ankle ligament injury and can be associated with swelling and bruising. Sometimes the joint may develop stiffness and the patient may have difficulty in walking. The symptoms of an ankle ligament injury depend on the severity of the injury which correlates with the extent of damage to the ligaments.
How is an Ankle Ligament Injury Diagnosed?
A complete physical examination by the physician will determine the degree and nature of the injury. The doctor may move the ankle in different directions to evaluate the extent of the injury. This may be painful. X-rays may be needed to confirm the severity of the injury and rule out the possibility of a fracture. In severe cases, a MRI scan may also be ordered.
What are the Treatment Options for Ankle Ligament Injury?
Ankle ligament injuries need immediate medical attention. If they are left untreated, they may cause chronic ankle instability. Conservative as well as surgical treatment may be used for the management of ankle ligament injuries.
Conservative Treatments for Ankle Ligament Injuries
Conservative treatment may be used for immediate relief and the treatment includes RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression and elevation) and medications. The RICE therapy reduces pain and swelling and provides rest to the injured ligament. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medications may be recommended for management of pain and inflammation.
Surgical Treatments for Ankle Ligament Injuries
Surgery is not commonly recommended for the management of an ankle sprain. However, if the conservative treatment fails to provide any benefit, surgery may be required. Surgery is recommended for ankle joint instability that persists even after months of rehabilitation. Common surgical procedures performed for the management of an ankle sprain include ankle reconstruction surgery and ankle arthroscopy.
Rehabilitation after Ankle Ligament Injury Treatments
After the non-surgical or surgical treatment, rehabilitation of the injured ankle is important. Physical therapy is effective for complete rehabilitation and includes strengthening exercises, mobilization exercises and gait training. PT provides long term benefits to the patient and can help prevent a recurrence of the injury.