Ankle sprains are the most prevalent injury of the musculoskeletal system, with an estimated one ankle sprain per 10,000 people each day. The ankles and feet support the weight of the body and are prone to overuse injuries leading to tendonitis and sprains and causing heel and ankle pain. The ankle allows you to run, jump, walk, and turn by providing stability. When the ankle is injured, you need relief from the pain and to know what is available to help you heal from ankle tendonitis or a sprained ankle as quickly as possible.
The ankle is a hinge joint made up of three bones, the tibia (shin bone) and the fibula (small bone next to the shin bone) in the lower leg, and the talus bone (ankle bone). Ligaments are strong bands of fibrous tissue that bind bones together. The following four ligaments attach the ankle and shin bones:
A hinge joint supports two movements, pulling the foot up towards the shin or dorsiflexion, and pointing the toes or plantar flexion. A cycle of dorsiflexion followed by plantar flexion allows the foot to strike the ground heel first, clear the surface of the ground, and propel the body forward for the next step.
Ankle sprains result when ligaments are stretched or torn when the foot twists, rolls, or turns beyond its normal range of movement. Risk factors for ankle sprains include the following:
When the ankle turns inward too far, inversion, pain and swelling are on the outside of the ankle. The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion injury.
When the ankle turns outward, an eversion injury, the pain is on the inside of the ankle. An eversion injury can affect the tendons which support the arch of the foot leading to heel pain.
Symptoms of an ankle sprain include bruising, pain when bearing weight, restricted range of motion, ankle instability, and swelling. Ankle sprains are graded in the following way:
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, almost all ankle sprains can be treated without surgery. There are three phases of treatment for ankle sprains.
To decrease the swelling and pain from an ankle sprain start with PRICE:
Gradually return to activities that do not require turning or twisting movements. Warm-up before exercise to prevent stiffness, which may lead to chronic ankle sprains or heel pain. When in doubt, call your health care provider to ensure your injury is properly diagnosed and treated.
Unlike a sprained ankle, an acute injury, ankle tendonitis is an overuse injury. It may take more time to heal ankle tendonitis than an ankle sprain. Tendons connect muscles to bones. Two tendons run down the back of the ankle and insert on either side of the foot. These tendons support and stabilize the ankle joint.
Activities that result in repetitive ankle motions can cause inflammation, pain, and swelling of the ankle tendons. Ankle tendonitis is more common in the following:
Steps to treat and heal ankle tendonitis largely mirror the treatment for a sprained ankle. Consider the following treatment steps:
There are several steps you can take to prevent further injuries such as keeping your hips, knees, and ankles strong and flexible, wearing proper footwear, gradually increasing speed and intensity when training, and avoid running on uneven terrain.
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While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.