A sprain is a common injury, particularly to the foot or ankle. It occurs when the ligaments in the foot get stretched or torn. A sprain has similar symptoms with other types of injuries, so it is essential to recognize the signs of a sprain to ensure you treat the injury correctly.
Let’s talk about how you can know if you have developed a sprain and where you can go in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for effective pain management.
The foot and ankle are made up of many bones and ligaments. Ligaments are the strong, flexible bands of tissue that connect the bones together. A sprain occurs when you overstretch or tear a ligament. It is a common type of injury, especially while playing a sport, such as while running, falling, or jumping. Most sprains occur when your body twists or pivots, but your feet stay in place, such as if you change direction quickly or jump and your foot lands awkwardly. A sprain may also occur if you hit or kick your foot against something hard.
Types of Sprains
Sprains are graded depending on the severity of the sprain and how much damage there is:
- A grade I sprain is a minor sprain where the ligament fibers have been overstretched or if there are small tears in the ligament. There may be minor swelling, and the area may be tender to the touch.
- A grade II sprain is a moderate sprain with significant, but not complete, tears in the ligament. Usually, there is swelling over the site of injury, and it hurts to move.
- A grade III sprain is a severe sprain where the ligaments are torn completely and detached from the bone. There is likely to be significant swelling and pain, and walking is very difficult.
Symptoms of a Sprain
Symptoms of a sprain will vary depending on the severity of the sprain but typically include:
- Pain, which may be felt in the top, sides, back, or arch of the foot
- Tenderness to the touch
- Swelling and bruising at the site of injury
- Increase in pain during activity/when walking
- Limited movement in the affected joint
- Difficulty putting weight on foot (more common with severe sprains)
Sometimes you may also experience a popping sensation or noise during injury.
Treatment for a Sprained Foot
Most foot or ankle sprains will improve within 2-4 weeks with treatment at home.However, the symptoms of a sprain can be similar to other injuries, such as a fracture, so it is always better to seek medical care from a doctor or foot and ankle specialist if you are concerned.
RICE therapy can help in the immediate care of a sprain which involves:
- Avoid any physical activity that causes pain, swelling, or discomfort.
- Apply an ice pack to the injury site for 15-20 minutes, 2-3 times daily, to help reduce swelling. (Do not apply ice directly the skin.)
- Use an elasticated bandage to support the foot and help prevent swelling. (Do not have the bandage too tight as this could affect circulation.)
- Keep the foot raised above the level of your heart, especially at night, to help reduce swelling.
Over-the-counter medications,such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Avoid heat and massage for the first few days after a sprain, as this can aggravate the injury and increase swelling.You can usually resume light activity once the pain has reduced and the swelling has gone down, but ensure you wear supportive shoes to prevent further problems or reinjury.
You should visit your healthcare provideras soon as possible if you:
- Cannot move or put weight on your foot
- Have pain directly over the bones at the injury site
- Have numbness in the injured area
Bad sprains may take 6-8 weeks to heal. Your healthcare provider may recommend physical therapy to help strengthen the foot and improve flexibility and stability. In some cases, the foot may need to be immobilized with a brace, cast, or splint to help it heal. You may require crutches to use while your injury heals.
Surgery may be necessary to repair the ligament damage for severe sprains with significant tearing, which could take 6-8 months to heal successfully.
Treatment for a Sprained Foot in Rhode Island and Massachusetts
If you are experiencing symptoms of a foot sprain, get the treatment you need at the Foot & Ankle Institute of New England. Our board-certified physicians are well-versed in treating all types of foot and ankle problems in people of all ages.