Ligaments are bands of tissue which connect bones to each other. Ankle ligaments support and regulate the range of motion in the ankle joint. There are generally two types of ligaments in the ankle. The medial ligaments are located on the inside of the ankle and the lateral ligaments are located on the outside. The lateral ligaments are most prone to injury.
An ankle injury involving the ligaments is generally known as an ankle sprain. This common ankle problem occurs when the ligaments are stretched too far beyond normal capacity. A sprain may simply overstretch or tear ankle ligaments. Any type of physical activity can potentially sprain an ankle. In many incidences, an accidental twisting of the foot and ankle toward the ground can cause an ankle roll, which can damage the adjoining ligaments.
Ankle pain is generally the most common symptom of a sprain. The ankle may also swell considerably following the injury. Many people with a sprain will have some difficulty placing pressure on the foot. For this reason, crutches will commonly be prescribed to provide ankle support and allow the ligaments an opportunity to heal. In some cases, the ankle may appear red, bruised and warm due to increased blood flow to the injured area.
Usually, ankle sprains are treated by elevating the ankle and resting it as much as possible. To reduce swelling, ice may be applied to the ankle in short increments. Some people will use compression methods to alleviate a swollen ankle. Generally, pain and anti-inflammatory medications will be used as well.
Sometimes, a sprain is confused with an ankle strain. Strains are ankle problems caused by an injury to tendons or muscles in the ankle. Tendons function by connecting muscles to bones. Similar to a sprain, a strain can signify the overstretching or tearing of a structure. As ligaments, muscles and tendons share a common space, it is not uncommon for ankle ligaments to be affected by a strain as well.
Another type of problem which can affect ankle ligaments is instability. Ankle instability is common in individuals with multiple ligament injuries. Sometimes, damaged ligaments fail to completely heal. This can leave the ankle in a weakened state. Many people with this problem may feel as if the ankle is giving away.
Physical therapy may be given to an individual with ankle instability. This will generally involve a variety of specified exercises aimed toward strengthening the ankle and restoring a normal range of motion. If the weakened ligaments cause ankle pain, medications may be prescribed for relief. Commonly, some type of brace may be worn to strengthen the ankle. The brace can also provide protection and prevent further injury to ankle ligaments.
There are some things that may be done to prevent problems with ankle ligaments. For instance, it is generally a good measure to stretch prior to strenuous physical activity. This may lessen the chances of an overly tight ligament being injured upon movement. It is also a good idea to wear proper fitting shoes which provide adequate support to the ankle and foot.