Are You Doing High Ankle Sprain Treatment the Right Way?
What Is a High Ankle Sprain?
A high ankle sprain is different from a standard sprain. It is less common but more disabling than the usual lower ankle sprain.
In the case of a high ankle sprain, the syndesmosis ligament is injured. This is the ligament located above the ankle where the leg and ankle meet. Its main function is to connect the leg bones tibia and fibula from the bottom and prevent them from splaying apart.
The syndesmosis ligament absorbs all the shock from external forces when one is running, exercising, or twisting, thus protecting the fibula and tibia.
Once sprained, the syndesmosis is unable to absorb shock and the pain radiates up the whole leg. Although high ankle sprain does not happen often, it is a serious condition that requires special care and treatment.
High Ankle Sprain Symptoms
High ankle sprain comes with bruising and swelling that are not very obvious to the naked eye, making it hard to determine the severity of the problem. Still, there are some symptoms that are easy to notice:
- Difficulty walking
- Intense pain while walking
- Minor swelling around the ankle area
- Terrible pain while rotating the ankle outward
- Major joint instability
- Extensive bruising
What Causes High Ankle Sprain?
The main cause of high ankle sprain is a sudden twist of the ankle. Usually, in the case of a standard sprain, the foot rolls inwards. But in the case of a high ankle sprain, it rolls outwards, which displaces the connecting ligaments.
Some physical activities such as running side to side or heavy weightlifting can cause high ankle sprain.
Diagnosing High Ankle Sprain
Follow the instructions in the video below to check whether or not you have high ankle sprain.
It's best to consult a doctor to determine the nature and severity of the sprain, but you may initially use some of the methods explained below:
- Squeezing Method: Squeeze your lower leg just below the knee. If you feel any pain and the pain radiates down to the syndesmosis ligament, then you have a high ankle sprain and need to seek medical attention immediately.
- External Rotation Method: Sit on the floor, bend your knees, and set the ankles at a 90-degree angle towards your feet. Now try to rotate your feet outwards. Any pain indicates a high ankle sprain.
- Medical Diagnosis: Most of the time, an X-ray is enough to diagnose the sprain. In some rare cases, CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are conducted to check the nature of the injury and its severity. Further diagnosis will reveal if the pain is due to just the high ankle sprain or if there is any bone displacement. If your doctor finds an unstable ankle with a torn syndesmosis, he or she will diagnose you with a high ankle sprain.
What Will Happen If You Don’t Treat It ASAP?
A high ankle sprain is a serious injury that demands immediate attention and treatment. One should not be lenient about this and must seek medical advice as soon as possible. Choosing to ignore an upper ankle sprain might lead to:
- Minor to severe swelling around the ankle
- Total inability to walk
- Displacement of ankle bones
- Unbearable pain even with little movement
- Surgical treatment
High Ankle Sprain Treatment: How Long Does Recovery Take?
Normally, a high ankle sprain requires a longer period to heal than a typical ankle sprain. Complete rest and patience are required for recovery.
It generally takes about 6-7 weeks for a high ankle sprain to completely heal. The rule of thumb is, if you are able to hop 15 times in a row on your foot, then you have fully recovered.
Proper high ankle sprain treatment is divided into three phases which are based on the PRICE protocol: Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. A doctor will guide you through the treatment plan like so:
The first phase primarily involves rest, protecting the affected ankle area, and reducing the swelling. Ice is applied in order to minimize the swelling of the ankle. It is recommended to ice the affected area for at least 20 minutes for 4-8 times a day. Ice is applied during the first couple of days. Proper rest is also a must to prevent any further injury. Braces can also be used for this purpose. This treatment phase lasts for a week at the most.
The second phase deals with recovering the patient’s flexibility, strength, and range of motion. Compression with an elasticized band is applied, and proper foot motion is regularly done with the band in order to recover strength and flexibility in the ankle. One can also use braces and splints to minimize ankle movement and keep the ankle stable. If the ankle is not kept stable, surgery might be required. The procedure calls for two screws to be inserted in the lower bones of the leg in order to replace the ankle joint and reduce the burden on the ligament. In this case, recovery time is approximately six months.
The final phase allows the patient to return to his or her normal activities. He or she is given physical therapy where slower maintenance exercises are performed. The exercises advance gradually, with the harder exercises including sudden turns or continuous fast movements. This phase lasts for about a week.
High Ankle Sprain Prevention Tips
As a high ankle sprain occurs mostly during athletic activities or exercises, it is advised that you warm up your body before any intense physical movement.
Additionally, you should do some stretching exercises before performing sudden motions. Support your joints with the proper tools such as bands in order to reduce the risk of bone displacement or an ankle sprain.
We hope you found this article about high ankle sprain, its causes, and its treatments helpful. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.