Have you ever hurt your ankle while jumping down from your rig? Although ankle injuries are often considered sports injuries, any activity that forces your foot or ankle into an unnatural position can cause an ankle strain, sprain, or break.
These include: tripping or falling; walking on uneven or slippery surfaces; twisting, rolling or rotating your ankle; or, even wearing faulty footwear. In North America, 25,000 people strain their ankles every day and every year more than a million people visit the emergency room because of ankle injuries.
Your ankle joint – comprised of an intricate network of muscles, ligaments, tendons and bone – is strong enough to support and move your body weight, but is also prone to injury.
At your ankle, your lower leg’s fibula and tibia bones connect to your foot’s talus bone. Ligaments hold these bones in place, while still allowing normal ankle motion. Tendons attach muscles to bones to stabilize and move the joint.
Whatever tissues are in involved in an ankle injury determine its categorization. A strain refers to damaged muscles or tendons that have been pulled too far. A sprain describes damage to ligaments that have been stretched beyond the normal range of movement, resulting in microscopic tears or a complete ligament rupture. A fracture refers to a break in one or more of the bones.
Since even a relatively minor ankle injury can immediately be quite painful, it’s usually safe to treat with home remedies first.
To prevent swelling and reduce pain, elevate your foot above the level of your heart, use a compression bandage, and place an ice pack on the injury for 15-20 minutes, three times a day. Rest by stopping usual activities and keeping weight off your ankle as much as possible.
For pain relief, use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Unfortunately, you may still experience swelling, pain and stiffness for several weeks, especially first thing in the morning or after activities.
However, seek immediate medical attention if: you have severe pain or swelling; your foot cannot support weight; your joint is severely deformed; or if you have an open wound, or signs of infection, including warmth, redness and tenderness in the affected area, or a fever higher than 37.8 C (100 F).
Treatment will depend on the type of injury. For a serious tendon strain, expect the joint to be immobilized with a cast or splint, and later supported by a brace during physical activities. Physical therapy (and rarely surgery) may be needed to recover strength, balance and range of motion.
Treatment for sprains varies according to severity – mild, moderate, or severe injury. Mild and moderate sprains are treated with RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate) until the pain and swelling is manageable.
Within three days of a mild sprain, you should be able to bear weight and regain some range of motion. Moderate sprains may require a splint with a longer recovery time and physical therapy. Since severe sprains involve the complete rupture or tear of a ligament, treatment and healing takes even longer, requiring the ankle to be immobilized for a period of time followed by an extended period of physical therapy. When a sprain doesn’t heal as expected, surgery may be necessary to repair the torn ligaments.
For fractures, the bone will be set manually or surgically and then immobilized in a cast for up to six weeks. Although you may feel ankle pain for up to two years, normal activities can be resumed after three or four months.
Since injuring your ankle can greatly impact your ability to truck, avoid them by: maintaining a healthy weight with strong bones and muscles through a healthy, balanced diet and exercise; wearing properly supportive boots and shoes; stretching your feet by pointing your toes a few times before jumping out of your rig; and, monitoring walking surfaces to avoid bumps, holes or slippery areas.
Just be careful not to let yourself slip.