If you’ve ever tried to define sprains and strains but can’t quite identify the difference between the two, you’re not alone. These two terms are often used interchangeably to describe overstretching or tearing of soft tissues in and around your ankles. There is a key difference, however, and knowing what that is can help you differentiate between ankle sprains and strains.
An ankle sprain involves a stretching or tearing of the ligaments connecting the bones in the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Ankle sprains are a very common injury among athletes and active individuals. These sprains can sometimes be prevented by performing targeted exercises to help strengthen the muscles surrounding your ankles, providing protection for those ligaments.
Alternatively, an ankle strain occurs due to overstretching of the muscles surrounding the ankle joint. Symptoms of an ankle strain include pain and swelling. To help prevent ankle strains from occurring, conducting stretching exercises before participating in sports or other activities is always a good idea. Another preventative measure is to avoid overdoing it, as many muscle strains occur when you are fatigued and worn down.
Anyone at any point can experience a sprain or strain, but certain risk factors increase your odds for overstretching a joint. Factors contributing to sprains or strains include:
Treatments for Ankle Sprains and Ankle Strains
Ankle sprains are most often treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (also known as R.I.C.E.). Sometimes, a severe sprain in the ankle may require that the patient wear a walking boot for ankle support.
An ankle strain can generally be treated at home. Resting for several days will help to limit pain and prevent further damage. You can also alternate between icing and heating the ankle to loosen up the muscle. Other treatment options include anti-inflammatory medications, which will reduce pain as well as swelling.
Severe strains and sprains may need more time to heal. You may also need physical therapy to help you regain strength and range of motion. If you are experiencing lingering ankle pain, let us help you get back on track. Schedule an appointment with us today by calling 901.756.1650.