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Ankle Sprains

What is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain or “twisted ankle” is an injury to one or more ligaments around the ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue (like tight ropes) that connect one bone to another and bind the joints together. In the ankle joint, ligaments provide stability by limiting side-to-side movement.

What Causes Ankle Sprains?

Ankle sprains are the result of an unnatural twisting or turning of the foot and ankle. This overstretches the ligaments and can damage or even tear them. You may experience an ankle sprain from losing balance in high heels or from a sudden change of motion while playing sports like soccer, basketball, and tennis. Genetics can also be a factor. Those with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (joint hypermobility where the ligaments are more like rubber bands) are more at risk for ankle sprains and resulting complications.

How is an Ankle Sprain Treated?

The very first step to treating an ankle sprain is RICE. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. 

  • Rest from any activities that place strain on the ankle.
  • Ice the ankle for 15-20 minutes every few hours.
  • Compress the ankle with a wrapping like an ACE bandage or compression sock.
  • Elevate the ankle above the heart, especially at night. 

 

However, it is still vital you see a foot doctor for any ankle sprain to avoid an unstable ankle with likely recurrent sprains. Your foot and ankle specialist will examine your foot and likely order diagnostic tests such as X-rays to rule out additional foot injuries such as fractures and broken bones. Treatment methods depend largely on the extent of the injury. Healing is aimed at reducing pain and swelling as well as restrengthening the ankle to restore balance and proper function. This may include the use of anti-inflammatory medication, laser therapy, medical devices such as braces, cast boots, crutches, etc., and physical therapy. If pain persists, an MRI will show the extent of the soft tissue damage which may involve a small fracture of the cartilage in the ankle joint.

Will My Ankle Sprain Need Surgery?

Even severe injuries to ligaments usually heal over time with proper conservative treatments. However, in some cases—when the ankle hasn’t healed after conservative treatment options or if the injury continues to reoccur—surgery may be the best course forward. You and your foot and ankle surgeon will discuss whether surgery to reconstruct the ligaments is the right option for your recurring ankle sprains.

Stress Fractures

What is a Stress Fracture?

A stress fracture is the term for a wear-and-tear injury in which small cracks or microfractures appear in the bones. Because stress fractures come on slowly, you may not notice one until it has worsened. You may feel pain at a specific point in your foot during activity. This pain will subside with rest but continue to worsen each time you increase activity or weight bearing especially if you are barefoot. There could be swelling or tenderness around the fractured area. Occasionally, bruising is present but not often. Stress fractures most often occur in the metatarsal bones (long bones that make up the ball of your foot).

What Causes Stress Fractures?

Stress fractures happen slowly over time due to repetitive motion. Active persons such as runners and adults and kids who participate in foot-demanding activities (e.i. basketball, soccer, tennis, dance) are at higher risk for stress fractures. Another cause of stress fractures can be a sudden increase in activity, such as ramping up your exercise routine too quickly. Additional factors can contribute to your likelihood for getting a stress fracture. These include weak bone density (osteoporosis) due to genetics or age, an increased BMI (body mass index or heavy bodyweight), footwear with poor cushioning, going barefoot or wearing sandals too frequently, and more.

How is a Stress Fracture Treated?

It’s important to have your stress fracture treated by a medical professional. Improper healing of a stress fracture can lead to chronic problems and additional stress fractures. A foot and ankle specialist will examine your foot and ask about your activities. At the FAAWC, our staff will take digital X-rays so your medical provider can possibly see exactly where your stress fracture is and determine its severity, but often only the healing process is visible, not the actual break. Treatment options for a stress fracture include discontinuing activity, immobilizing the foot and ankle, and reducing stress on the affected area (often by using a flexible cast and walking boot or even a fiberglass cast). Our MLS laser therapy can speed your bone healing and often a follow-up Dexascan (bone density test) and lab work to check your Vitamin D level will be ordered to avoid getting recurrent fractures.

Will My Stress Fracture Need Surgery?

 Surgical treatment is only necessary for severe fractures which will not heal without further intervention. This may include the placing of pins or plates within or along the bones to assist in proper positioning while the fracture heals.

Broken Toes & Bones (Foot Fractures)

What is a Broken Bone?

A broken bone is the term for a partial or full break (fracture) in a bone. Unlike stress fractures, which occur more on the surface of a bone; when a bone is broken, the fracture has penetrated deeper into or through the bone completely. There are many types of foot fractures, including:

  • Stable Fractures—clean break with the fractured ends lined up properly
  • Open/Compound Fractures—fractured bone pushes against or breaks through the skin
  • Spiral Fractures—break spirals around the bone 
  • Comminuted Fractures—bone is fractured into 3 or more pieces

What Causes Broken Bones?

Broken bones in the toes, foot, or ankle can have three main causes: trauma, weak bone density (osteoporosis), and overuse. Trauma may be the result of a direct impact, a crushing injury, a twisting injury, or a fall. Athletes such as soccer, rugby, and football players are at increased risk for fractures. Workers with higher-risk duties such as climbing ladders or working in construction may also be more prone to falling or crushing injuries.

How is a Broken Bone Treated?

Foot fractures have many different treatment routes depending on the type and severity of the fracture. Minor and stable fractures can often be easily healed with a cast or other forms of immobilization such as a walking fracture boot. Our MLS laser therapy can increase blood flow and speed natural bone healing.

Will My Broken Bone Need Surgery?

Several types of toe, foot, or ankle fractures, including crushing injuries, will need surgical assistance for reconstruction and proper healing. Your FAAWC foot and ankle surgeon may utilize screws, bars, and plates (either externally or internally) to help align and hold bone ends or fragments. 

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