The feet and ankles work together to provide support and mobility to the body. A foot or ankle sprain is a soft tissue injury. Most often, a sprain occurs when an injury pulls, stretches, or tears the ligaments that connect bone to bone. A fracture is actually a break in the bone.
Injuries from falling, stumbling, or sports trauma are the most common causes of foot and ankle sprains and fractures.
Pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking on the affected foot or ankle are the most common symptoms of a sprained or fractured foot or ankle.
If you've hurt your foot or ankle, it's best to err on the side of caution. A visit to a podiatrist can determine the extent of the injury and the necessary treatment. Increased pain, swelling, bruising, redness, or difficulty walking after an injury are definite signs that it's time to see a podiatrist.
Treatment will depend on your injury. If you have a broken bone, your podiatrist may attempt to “reduce” the fracture, which means lining up the ends of the bones so they can heal properly. If the fracture is “unstable,” meaning that the ends of the bone do not stay in place after a reduction, surgery may be needed.
Stress fractures are treated with rest and immobilization. You will be instructed to stay off the affected area until healing is complete. Crutches and/or a special “boot” or cast may be used to immobilize the area.
Sprains are also treated with a period of immobilization. Depending on the extent of your sprain, you may be able to resume activity fairly quickly, or you may need to wear a soft cast or special “boot” and use crutches for a period of weeks.
Professional athletes may undergo surgery to repair torn ligaments.
Oral anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, can be used to decrease pain, swelling, and inflammation.