What Is A Sprained Ankle?

sprained ankleSpraining my ankle—which means that I over stretched or tore some ligaments— last week was no fun but things are proceeding well enough. While the ankle and foot looks much worse I am fairly pain free and functional. My ankle looks the way it does because the swelling spread and black and blue patches complete the picture.

Even though my joints are very loose and I have been “turning” my ankles my whole life, this is the first time that I actually sprained the ankle as evidenced by the extent of swelling. Due to the level of pain I’d have to say that it was a fairly mild sprain.

The ankle joint is made up of three bones. The two shin bones—tibia and fibula— form a groove for the talus bone of the foot to fit into. This is the talocrural joint. Below this is the subtalar joint, a joint of the foot where the talus sits on top of the calcaneus, or heel.

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There are four ligaments of the ankle though when it comes to ankle sprain we are mostly concerned with the three ligaments on the outer ankle. The inner ankle is the deltoid ligament which has numerous connections. We don’t often sprain the ankle on the inside, though it is possible.

The ligaments of the outer ankle are the anterior talo-fibular ligament, the calcaneo-fibular ligament and the posterior talo-fibular ligament. Two of these, the anterior talo-fibular ligament and the calcaneo-fibular ligament are the ones that are most often tweaked with a sprained ankle.

sprained ankleWith most sprains the foot become inverted pushing into the ligaments of the outer ankle. In the case of my sprained ankle, I stepped into a small hole in a sidewalk with the broken piece of cement angling down. I planted my foot and fell but when my legs fell my left foot stayed where it was. This is just one of many ways to roll over your ankle and mess up your ligaments.

Most often in a sprain the anterior talo-fibular ligament and the calcaneo-fibular ligament stretch too much or tear. It is also possible to break small pieces of bone when this happens depending on the force with which the injury occurs. In very severe sprains or in impact injuries, cartilage, bone and other ligaments of the foot and ankle can be involved.

So far in the case of my sprained ankle I am diagnosing it as a mild sprain that is very swollen because I am using the foot more than I probably should. If I had a desk job it would be way easier to use my foot less than I have. That said, I have high hopes for my recovery.


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