High & Low Ankle Sprains: What’s The Difference?
Ankle sprains can be a painful nuisance, making daily activities challenging. It may surprise you to know that there are actually two variations of an ankle sprain, known as high ankle sprains and low ankle sprains. As their names indicate, the type of sprain is identified by the location of the injury on the ankle. While the two ultimately have similar symptoms, they can have completely different treatment protocols.
A low ankle sprain is characterized by over-stretching the ligaments that connect the bones in the ankle joint as the ankle rolls inward. This is also known as an inversion sprain, and the vast majority of sprains are low ankle sprains. Alternately, when the ankle rolls outward, it’s called an eversion ankle sprain. Both inversion and eversion sprains are known as low ankle sprains.
A high ankle sprain occurs when the foot and ankle externally rotate, which stretches the tissue that holds the tibia and fibula together. The tibia and fibula are actually the two lower leg bones, and because the sprain technically happens above the ankle joint, this is known as a high sprain or a syndesmotic ankle injury. These types of sprains typically have a longer recovery period and occur most often with athletes.
Mild ankle sprains can be treated using the RICE method, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Resting the ankle can help alleviate pain and promote proper healing of the joint. Icing the sprain can also help to reduce swelling, followed by wrapping the ankle in some type of compression wrap. Lastly, keeping the ankle elevated can further reduce swelling as well.
Moderate to severe ankle sprains should be treated by a podiatrist. In these cases, more aggressive treatment is necessary to restore function and mobility of the joint and can reduce the chances of permanent damage. Left untreated, these sprains can heal improperly and lead to altered gait, arthritis, tendinitis and other complications that are long-term and cans result in chronic pain.
With each ankle injury, the tissue heals less strong than prior to the injury. This means that ankles are weakened over time and are more likely to sustain additional injuries, including sprains, strains, and stress fractures. For this reason, it’s important to perform strength and balance exercises for the ankle to help keep ligaments as tight and healthy as possible. Wearing preventative ankle braces also help prevent or reduce the severity of recurring ankle sprains.
If you suspect you have sustained a high or low ankle sprain, seek treatment to determine the severity and subsequent treatment options with your podiatrist. Request an appointment with one of our podiatric specialists today for a foot exam by clicking here or call any of our convenient office locations in the Piedmont Triad.
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