While playing soccer, Janine ran into another player, and with her next step, her foot landed awkwardly. Her ankle rolled. Joe was working on a home improvement project. He slipped on the last rung of his ladder and twisted his ankle. Pat’s Rottweiler saw a squirrel and gave a sudden pull on the leash. Pat stumbled before he could catch up. They all had ankle sprains.
Chiropractors often see patients with ankle sprains, one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries. Here are a few eye-opening numbers about the frequency of ankle injuries:
- 10 to 30% of young athletes’ injuries involve ankles.
- About 1 million people each year see a doctor about an ankle injury.
- About 75% of ankle injuries are sprains.
- Over 40% of ankle sprains may cause chronic issues.
Ankles have ligaments that connect the bones and maintain a normal range of motion. A sprain occurs when the ankle rolls or twists such that the ligaments are forcibly stretched or torn. As a result, they move outside their normal position and range of motion.
An ankle sprain can range from mild to severe. It is assessed using ankle sprain grades—1 through 3—to indicate the level of severity. In the first part of the ankle injury series, we will look at ankle sprains and the grades of severity. In the second part, we will explore a variety of treatments for these injuries.
Ankle Sprains: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis
Numerous ankle injuries happen during sports. Jumping and landing wrong, falling alone or in a pile-up, or getting pushed while running—any number of things can cause an ankle sprain.
But ankle injuries are certainly not limited to athletes. Stumbling over a child’s toy in the middle of the family room floor, losing your balance on a stepstool, stepping and slipping on a stone while walking outside, or losing your balance on a wet tile in the bathroom can affect all of us.
The first symptom, of course, is pain! Even a mild sprain will hurt. There are a few other symptoms, such as:
- A possibly a popping noise or sensation at the moment of injury.
The symptoms of a sprain, especially a severe sprain, are similar to those of a bone fracture. Your doctor may require an X-ray or MRI to ensure the injury is a sprain. To determine the severity of the ankle sprain, they will move your ankle in several directions to see which ligaments are injured and assess how the range of motion has been affected. Here, they will identify your ankle sprain grade.
Ankle Sprain Grades
There is more than one grading system for classifying the level of severity of an ankle sprain. The system we describe here is a traditional, widely used system.
There are three grades of ankle sprain severity in the traditional grading system. Each grade reflects the amount of damage done, the extent of swelling and pain, and the level of instability and loss of function. The higher the grade, the more extensive treatment and healing time will be needed to recover full function.
Recovery time for each grade depends on the type and effectiveness of treatment. For each grade below, we indicate a typical recovery time. More time may be needed if other complicating factors are in the picture.
Ankle Sprain Grade 1
This is the least severe sprain. Ligaments are stretched slightly, and there is minimal microscopic tearing of collagen fibers in the ligaments. The ligaments are overstretched, but they have little or no tearing. There is minimal swelling and soreness. While the ankle does hurt, it can still hold your weight, and you can still walk, though perhaps a bit slower than usual.
Ankle sprain grade 1 recovery time is about one to three weeks.
Ankle Sprain Grade 2
This is a moderate level sprain. The ligament is partially torn, and there is an unusual looseness in the joint. Some collagen fibers in the ligament are torn. There is moderate swelling, and the area feels tender to the touch. The range of motion is decreased, and the ankle is unstable. There is mild to moderate bruising, as the tear has bled under the skin. It may be challenging to put your total weight on that leg. You lose some of your normal function and range of motion.
Ankle sprain grade 2 recovery time is about three to six weeks.
Ankle Sprain Grade 3
This most severe type of sprain means a ligament or ligaments are fully torn. The area is extremely painful to the touch. The tear may cause an audible popping sound. Grade 3 ankle sprain bruising is severe. Swelling is extensive (more than 4 centimeters around the fibula). The ankle is completely unstable, and you cannot put any weight on it. You might feel like your ankle is broken.
Ankle sprain grade 3 recovery time may take several months.
We’re Looking Forward to Helping You at Our Chiropractic Offices in NJ!
Ankle sprains are common injuries for professional athletes to the average person walking along the sidewalk. When you think about it, ankles are relatively small compared to the rest of our bodies, but they have a tremendous job. They keep us moving—walking, running, jumping, landing, turning, and more—all while supporting our total weight. No wonder they seem to be so vulnerable!
If you suffer a sprain, your chiropractor is the one to go to. This is a musculoskeletal injury—a chiropractor’s specialty. They see and treat these injuries every day. That experience will benefit you; you want to heal as fully and quickly as possible. In the second part of this ankle injury series, we will discuss several types of treatments chiropractors use to treat all grades of ankle sprains.
At the Bergen Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, our chiropractic team, led by Dr. Gregory Doerr, follows the highest and most professional medical standards to provide superior chiropractic help. After all, our mission is to provide unparalleled patient care and services in a comfortable healing atmosphere. Contact us to learn more about our chiropractic services! Our chiropractic offices in Cliffside Park, NJ, and Hackensack, NJ, are ready to welcome you!