Ankle and Foot Sprains and Strains | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Sprains and Strains of the Ankle and Foot

Overview and Facts about Sprains and Strains of the Ankle and Foot

Sprains and strains of the ankle and foot are common orthopaedic conditions characterized by ligament stretches and tears in the ankle and/or foot. Your foot and ankle contain many ligaments that support various bone and muscle structures within the foot and ankle, meaning there are many opportunities for sprains and strains to occur. The severity of ankle and foot sprains and strains can range from microscopic ligament tears to stretched ligaments or fully torn ligaments.

Signs and Symptoms of Sprains and Strains of the Ankle and Foot

Signs and symptoms of sprains and strains of the ankle and foot vary depending on the severity of the injuries. For instance, in cases of mild injury, pain may occur when engaging in activities that place weight or pressure on the injured area of the foot or ankle.

Common signs and symptoms of these sprains and strains include:

  • Loss of flexibility, function, and range of motion in the foot and ankle
  • Bruising and swelling around the ankle
  • In cases of a torn ligament, a popping sensation or sound in the foot or ankle at the moment of injury
  • In severe cases, an inability to bear weight upon the foot or ankle

Causes and Risk Factors of Sprains and Strains of the Ankle and Foot

Sprains and strains of the ankle and foot are common among individuals who participate in sports, such as soccer, tennis, and football, or regular physical activities. Your risk for these injuries can also increase from:

  • Walking or running on non-flat surfaces for prolonged periods of time.
  • Having poor flexibility in the foot and ankle.
  • Experiencing sudden falls with inappropriate landing techniques.

If sprains and strains of the ankle and foot are not treated, long-term issues can ensue in the form of arthritis, prolonged pain, and foot or ankle dysfunction or instability.

Tests and Diagnosis of Sprains and Strains of the Ankle and Foot

A physical examination is performed to first determine the likelihood of a foot or ankle strain or sprain and the severity of the injury. Imaging tests may also be used to assess the extent of the injury. These tests include:

Typically, if X-rays fail to identify the problem in individuals, then CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds are used for a closer or more precise assessment in order to make a proper diagnosis.

Treatment and Care for Sprains and Strains of the Ankle and Foot

Sprains and strains of the ankle and foot are mainly treated by the following means:

  • Rest to promote healing
  • A cold compress to the injured area to help alleviate swelling
  • Elevation of the injured foot or ankle to reduce pressure on and around the injured ligaments and also reduce swelling

Medications, such as over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may also be administered to help reduce pain. Medical devices, such as foot braces and crutches, are often provided to individuals who remain active or on their feet during recovery. Physical therapy is often recommended to promote further healing.