Ankle sprains are common, all too common. Most people, by the time they’re adults, have had at least one experience where the foot landed awkwardly and they limped away on a tender ankle.
While doctors categorize these injuries into grades (1 to 3, depending on severity), the first assessment belongs to the patient at the moment of impact. Unfortunately, many patients can’t decide whether the sprain is serious enough to see the doctor. This results in an untold number of cases where the sprain is allowed to go untreated; it does not heal properly, and continues to remind its owners— years into the future— of that time, years earlier, when they twisted their ankle.
While some ankle injuries are truly traumatic and eventually require surgical intervention orthoses or a brace . . . most could have been treated successfully with early and aggressive conservative care.
The above scenario applies to the simple ankle sprain, when the ligaments or tendons that support the ankle are stretched too far. More serious ankle injuries include Achilles tendonitis or rupture. The Achilles runs down the back of the leg, from your knee to the back of your foot. It is vulnerable to rupturing if you play vigorous contact sports. Unlike the gentle roll of a sprained ankle, an Achilles rupture can sometimes announce itself with a loud pop! and a burst of pain.
How do you know if your ankle injury is serious? As we said, any ankle damage can come back to haunt you so it’s best to see the doctor to have it checked. Other tell-tale signs of Achilles tendonitis or Achilles rupture include:
- Pain and stiffness along the Achilles tendon, between the calf and the ankle
- Pain that is felt first thing in the morning and worsens after exercising
- Thickening of the tendon, which is palpable beneath the skin
- Bone spurs (in the case of insertional tendonitis, where the tendon meets the heel bone).
- Swelling that gets worse throughout the course of the day.
Call our clinic in Dallas, DeSoto or Sunnyville if you feel any of the above. In the meantime, let pain be your guide. Don’t try to tough it out by walking all-out on a wounded ankle. Let it rest; ice the injury; elevate the foot; apply compression to keep the swelling in check.
Exercise, But Carefully
As soon as your ankle can bear your weight and you have range of motion, you can start doing strengthening exercises. These involve pushing against a fixed object with your foot. We can also give you a resistance band, and show you how to use it for isotonic exercises.
You can also perform some exercises to improve your balance and coordination. A wounded ankle will require strong muscles to support it during the healing process, so now is a good time to focus on the quads and hamstrings.
After the initial phase of rehab, when you feel confident that your ankle is healing, you can return to walking, jogging or cycling. Swimming is always a good choice, because water offers resistance without impact. In the early stages, exercising in water also provides cardiovascular benefits. As the injury heals, walking in deep water or swimming may be allowed, depending on your injury and Doctor’s recommendations.
Even without the full use of your ankle, cycling on one leg is permitted. A trainer or physical therapist can show you how this is done.
Lower Body Injury, Whole Body Cardio
While we understand the frustration of being barred from activities that you love, rehab can turn out to be beneficial. You may find new ways of maintaining fitness. Cross-training may reduce your chances of future injury. Many patients emerge stronger after a stint in rehab.
Anyone who is sincerely interested in maintaining cardiovascular conditioning while rehabbing an injury to the lower extremity will not be daunted or disappointed by the experience. All you need is a strong desire to stay in shape.