Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprain injury
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Ankle sprains are a common and sometimes very painful and serious running injury. How you initially treat the injury determines how the injury heals and how soon you can get back to running, so it's important to take the right post-injury steps.

Symptoms:

Ankle sprains are often the result of a twisting or rolling of your ankle. You'll notice pain and swelling above the ankle bone. It may hurt to put weight on your ankle.

You may also have black-and-blue coloring at the site of the injury.

Cause:

Ankle sprains occur because runners don't always watch where they are going and they step off a curb into a pothole and twist their ankle. The injury is also common in runners who run on soft or uneven surfaces, such as trails.

Types of Ankle Sprains:

When the foot rolls to the outside, that's called an eversion sprain. When it rolls to the inside, it's called an inversion sprain.

Ankle sprains are graded based on the degree of seriousness of the injury. A grade I sprain means that you stretched your ligaments and they're inflammed. You'll experience some mild pain and swelling, but the injury should clear up on its own.

A grade II sprain is more serious and involves tearing or partial tearing of one or more of the ligaments. Eventually scar tissue will form to heal the tear, but you may still notice weakness in that ankle.

A grade III sprain is a serious injury and involves a complete tear of all three ligaments. It often requires surgery, especially among runners.

Treatment:

If you twist your ankle, the first thing to do is to stop running. It's safe to resume running if the pain disappears completely after walking for a few minutes.

If the pain doesn't go away, stop your run. To reduce pain and swelling, ice the area as soon as possible and elevate your ankle.

Keep ice on the swollen area for 20 minutes every 4 to 6 hours. Continue icing for 2 to 3 days if the pain persists. When you're not icing it, wrap your ankle with an elastic bandage for support. If swelling lasts for more than 2 to 3 days, get an x-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture.

If the sprain is a grade II or III, treatment may involve placing the ankle in a cast for several weeks. This gives the ligaments time to heal. Once the cast is removed, you'll need several weeks of physical therapy to reduce the scar tissue and rebuild strength and flexibility.

Prevention:

Try to avoid running on unstable surfaces such as beaches and grassy fields. If you're running on trails, take precautions to avoid falling and tripping, and make sure that you're wearing trail running shoes, which are much more supportive and sturdy than regular running shoes.

Do exercises to build strength and flexibility in your feet and ankles.

A good one to do is alphabet writing where, while sitting in a chair with you leg extended, you use your big toe as your pen to write the alphabet in the air. You have to move your ankle to write the letters. Go through the alphabet a couple times. Balance board exercises are also a good way to build strength and balance.

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