10 Feb Sprains and Fractures
We spend our days walking, running (and sometimes even hopping, skipping and jumping) without sparing a thought for our feet and ankles that provide mobility and support to our bodies as we go through these motions – until, that is, we get injured.
Sprain versus Fracture
A foot or ankle sprain is joint-related. It is a soft tissue injury that occurs when the ligaments that connect bone to bone are pulled, or torn or stretched too far. A fracture deals with damage done to the bone and occurs when the bone breaks. Sprains and strains are considered minor injuries, while fractures can range from minor to major.
Foot injuries like sprains, strains and fractures often occur when we play sport, (e.g. a stress fracture if you’re a runner or gymnast). Tripping on uneven surfaces and falling are other causes for these injuries. Fractures mostly occur from some kind of trauma such as an accident or a severe fall.
Signs to look out for
You’ll notice immediate pain around the injury and won’t be able to put any weight on the injured area. You will experience bruising, swelling and tenderness in the area. Walking will be difficult, as will moving the injured area.
The RICE method
If you’ve ever sprained or strained your foot or ankle, you need to follow the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) method. This simple self-care technique reduces swelling, ease pain and speeds up healing.
Rest: Pain is your body’s signal that something is wrong. As soon as you’re hurt, stop your activity, and rest as much as possible for 2-5 days. If you put pressure on the injured area, you could be making it worse.
Ice: Apply an ice pack (or even a bag of frozen peas) for approx. 15 minutes every 3-4 hours for two days after your injury to decrease inflammation. Make sure to cover the ice pack with a light towel to prevent frostbite.
Compression: Wrap the injured area with an elastic medical bandage (like an ACE bandage) to prevent swelling. Make sure it is snug but not too tight.
Elevation: Raise the injured part above the level of your heart to reduce pain and swelling. For instance, you can prop your leg up on cushions/pillows while sitting on the sofa.
When to see a podiatrist
If you do not get relief after a few days even when you’ve followed the RICE method, if you’re still in a lot of pain and discomfort, or if you feel numbness or swelling, you need to visit a podiatrist. Injuries can be tricky, especially as we age and so it’s important to get treated early.
A podiatrist will first evaluate the extent of the damage and may request imaging tests like an X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI to determine the problem before charting out a recovery plan.
If you have a sprain, you also need to immobilise the area until it heals and take anti-inflammatory tablets. Sprains need to be allowed to heal naturally and this takes time.
Stress fractures require that you’re off your feet – you may need to wear a “moon boot” or a cast to immobilise the area and keep your bones aligned while the fracture heals. If you have a broken foot, the pain will be far more acute than that of a sprained foot.
Of course, it’s always best to take preventative measures so that you don’t get injured in the first place. Our podiatrists recommend that you warm up before playing any sports. It is also important to wear shoes that suit the sport you’re playing as well as fit you correctly.