Identifying an ankle injury

Though ankle injuries are often associated with sports injuries, ankle pain is not exclusive to athletes. Even a day-to-day activity like travelling to work can cause painful ankles if walking on a dangerous or uneven surface.

Common forms of ankle injuries are either a sprain or fracture. These are typically caused by twisting trauma or a violent blow to the ankle. Symptoms of a fractured ankle bone or bones include:

  • Instant and severe pain
  • Disfiguring swelling and bruising
  • Tender and painful to touch
  • Inability to place any weight on the injured leg

For a reliable and accurate assessment of the severity of ankle pain, you should contact a qualified physician. Severe spraining of the ankle ligaments or tendons can often hide the symptoms of a fractured ankle, so professional advice is required. Possible signs of a broken ankle include not being able to walk, debilitating pain, queasiness, a change in the shape of the ankle, plus a snap or popping noise at the time of injury. If you experience any of these then you should seek urgent treatment.

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Ankle pain causes

Ankle pain can be defined as any type of ache or tenderness in the ankle region. This is normally the result of an injury, which happens when the ankle joint is twisted too far away from its usual position, hence why ankle pain can occur when walking or running.

Three bones meet in the ankle region: the tibia and fibula of the lower leg, and the talus of the foot. These are held together by ligaments to enable normal ankle motion, while tendons attach the muscles to the bones. The majority of ankle sprains are lateral sprains - the action where your foot rolls and the outer ankle twists toward the ground, stretching or tearing the ligaments.

Painful ankles can also be the result of a number of other factors, such as:

  • arthritis (the five types that generally affect this joint are ankle arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, septic arthritis and gout)
  • nerve damage (e.g. sciatica)
  • infection in the joint
  • blocked blood vessels
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Ankle pain treatment

Elastoplast offers a range of ankle pain treatment products to help you protect and care for sore ankles. Immediately after the injury has occurred, apply the RICER method to the affected area:

  • Rest: Avoid putting weight on the injured foot and rest the ankle. For the first few days try and avoid movement where possible, and use crutches if required.
  • Ice: Apply a bag of ice or frozen vegetables (wrapped in a tea towel or cloth) to the injured area for 20 minutes every two hours to help reduce any swelling.
  • Compression: Use Elastoplast Cohesive Bandage on the injured area. Compression reduces bleeding and swelling. Don't wrap the bandage too tight because your ankle may become numb.
  • Elevation: Elevate the injured area and rest on a soft surface to help stop any bleeding and swelling.
  • Referral: Contact a qualified physician for precise diagnosis, further care and treatment advice.

Once pain subsides, speed up recovery time and reduce swelling with exercises designed to increase the range of motion. Try gently rotating the injured ankle in both directions, stopping if this becomes painful. Slowly flexing the sore ankle with your hands will also help.

If symptoms persist after three or four days you should visit a hospital. A qualified physician may take an ankle X-ray to see if any bones are broken, and surgery may be required.

Sprained ankle

A rolled or sprained ankle is one of the most common ankle injuries. Ankle sprains range from mild to extreme, and occur when your ligaments (the connective tissue bundles between bones) tear or get overstretched. Ankle pain when walking can be the result of lightly rolling your ankle or losing your balance. More severe, painful sprains can make a popping noise, eventually swelling and becoming stiff.

If not treated properly, a sprained ankle can increase your risk of re-injury by as much as 40-70%, so it's important to seek medical advice about your ankle injury. Mild sprained ankles result in slight bruising or pain, but severe ankle sprains lead to intense pain and much more swelling, sometimes taking a few months to fully heal.

Swollen ankles

While ankles can swell as a result of a sprain, swollen ankles can seem to flare up out of the blue. For instance, you may have spent too many hours on your feet at work, or a subtle awkward knock to the ankle can cause it to swell. It could also be a side effect of new medication impacting fluid retention.

Mild ankle swelling is common and usually improves after elevation and some rest. However, if it's accompanied by severe pain, heat or other uncomfortable symptoms there could be a more serious issue like a disease, blood clot or Lymphedema.
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Preventing ankle pain

Preventing an ankle injury involves more than just avoiding common injury risk factors such as a sudden change in direction or dangerous and slippery surfaces. There are a number of proactive ways you can help reduce the likelihood of ankle injuries from occurring or reoccurring, such as:

  • Consistently warming up and stretching before an activity, as well as cooling down afterwards
  • Allowing adequate recovery time between workouts and training sessions
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and diet
  • Sticking to a gentle and progressive training regime if trying to build up fitness
  • Focusing on building up ankle strength with increasingly stronger agility drills
  • Wearing specific protection like an ankle support, especially for previously injured ankles
  • Wearing appropriate footwear while exercising to ensure your feet and ankles are adequately supported, especially if you experience ankle pain when running
  • Avoiding activities that cause severe pain and discomfort
  • Assessing the safety of the training or play area
  • Remaining hydrated before, during and after exercise

Using an ankle support

As mentioned, using specific protection like an ankle support or ankle taping provides external help to ligaments without limiting the normal range of motion or function. Ankle supports are beneficial when the normal ranges of motion have been exceeded, causing injury. Ankle supports, straps or tape provide increasing support or restriction as the extremes of normal range of motion are approached, hopefully providing maximal restriction (support) at a point just prior to rupture of the ligaments fibres.

Elastoplast Wrap Around Ankle Support and Elastoplast Adjustable Ankle Stabiliser are designed to give strong support for sore or injured ankles. Both products feature adjustable straps, allowing for a customisable fit and extra comfort on either foot, as well as having breathable material for all-day comfort.

Elastoplast wrap around ankle support
Elastoplast Sport Adjustable Ankle Stabilizer
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