Three Things Your Foot Doctor Did’t Tell You About Your Ankle Sprain
Ankle sprains can result in arthritis of the ankle if not treated properly and timely.
Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in the world. Nearly half of all sports injuries are ankle sprains. Usually, the ankle ‘inverts’ and the ‘ATFL’ tears; that is, the ankle rolls to the outside and the anterior talofibular ligament tears. This is the first ligament to tear in a bad sprain and must heal adequately to prevent future problems and arthritis.
Up to 80% of all ankle arthritis is due to trauma or previous sprains. If a sprain heals poorly or not at all, then the ankle remains unstable or loose. This allows abnormal motion to occur. Over time, abnormal motion results in arthritis.
Ankle arthritis can be disabling and painful. It can undoubtedly limit activities as one gets older. It is best not to let it happen in the first place.
It is imperative to seek analysis and treatment of even the most basic ankle sprains with a professional as soon as you can.
Immobilization and ‘staying off the ankle’ will make the ankle worse in the long-run.
Traditionally, many foot doctors and surgeons tell people to put their ankle in a boot, use crutches and avoid weight on the leg. This form of treatment can last anywhere from 1 week to six weeks! Then the individual is allowed to play sports and work. If lucky, that patient will be offered therapy after coming out of the cast or boot.
The best and most scientifically correct way to treat an ankle sprain (grade 1-3) is with functional bracing and early motion/therapy. Functional bracing is a specialized application, and your doctor should be very knowledgeable in this area. (We offer a variety of braces that vary in stiffness, control, and area of stabilization; the brace chosen depends upon the type and severity of the sprain.)
Functional rehabilitation is extremely important. Dr. Warner works very closely with her therapists. In fact, unlike any other practice around, she shares exam rooms with her therapists so that she can directly supervise the therapy as needed and she and the therapists can devise precision performance plans that will benefit each patient based on his or her injury, anatomy and overall ability.
Therapy is highly dependent upon the qualifications of therapists. We have superior therapists with advanced training and certifications; importantly, they will work one-on-one with you regarding the ankle sprain (or any other injury). We do not believe in giving a patient a piece of paper and putting them in a corner to follow instructions.
There has been a lot of research done recently that proves that a functional rehabilitation program rather than immobilization is the best way to handle ankle sprains.
If you treat your ankle sprain with a well-designed functional brace and excellent functional rehabilitation, then you can expect to have quicker return to work or sports, less looseness and the same rate of re-sprains.
MRI studies are not very accurate for ankle sprains.
MRI is a highly technical advanced imaging modality that is widely available and probably overused in today’s healthcare world. Although MRI gives beautiful pictures, it cannot identify pain or what is causing pain. Also, the ability of MRI to even identify the actual torn ligament varies from 44% to 100%. The real reason to do an MRI is to determine pathology inside the ankle at the level of the cartilage. Often, an ankle sprain will also cause a cartilage tear, small fracture (broken bone) or scar to form within the joint itself.
In studies of people without ankle pain and no trauma history, the rate of ligament tears that look just like an ankle sprain is very high. Up to 60% of people that are asymptomatic will have an MRI-identifiable ATFL tear.
An experienced and thoughtful surgeon should be able to diagnose an ankle sprain without an MRI. However, in some long-standing cases of problematic ankles from a sprain in the past, MRI is useful to gain information.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ANKLE SPRAIN TREATMENTS, CONTACT WARNER ORTHOPEDICS & WELLNESS TODAY!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Meredith Warner is a board certified, Fellowship Trained Foot and Ankle, Orthopedic surgeon practicing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dr. Warner is committed to offering her patients an accurate diagnosis along with a comprehensive treatment plan in order to get them back to a pain-free life. Dr. Meredith Warner specializes in the treatment of orthopedic issues, providing operative and non-operative treatment plans of orthopedic problems, including musculoskeletal pain such as chronic back, neck and foot pain, reconstructive surgery of the foot and ankle, arthritis, diabetic, hammer toe, bunion, wound care, work injuries, fitness and nutrition and osteoporosis issues.