We spend a lot of life on our feet, so it’s not surprising that strains and sprains frequently affect the ankles and, less often, the feet. Severe injuries may make walking impossible and require medical care. TriHealth Orthopedic & Sports Institute and Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine specialists offer expert treatment for foot and ankle sprains and strains to help you heal quickly.
Sprains and strains feel similar, but they are different types of injuries. A sprain stretches or tears the ligaments, which are the bands of tissue that connect two bones. A strain damages a muscle or a tendon, which is the band of tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone.
Ankle sprains are the most common type of sprain, while foot sprains and strains happen far less often. Foot sprains usually are related to sport injuries and affect the middle of the foot or the big toe. Sprains of the big toe (commonly called "turf toe") occur when the toe is bent too far backwards and are most often seen among football and soccer players.
Sprains and strains can range from mild to severe. Doctors describe them in three grades according to the amount of damage to the ligament, tendon or muscle fibers:
Sprains and strains of the ankle or foot happen as a result of excessive force, usually when the foot is turned inward (inverted). Common causes include:
Ankle and foot sprains and strains have similar symptoms:
See your doctor if you have:
Most mild foot and ankle sprains and strains can be treated at home. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medications such as ibuprofen can help relieve pain and swelling. You can also help promote healing by following R.I.C.E.:
Mild sprains generally take 2 to 4 weeks to heal. Moderate sprains may take 6 to 8 weeks.
More serious injuries may require medical care. Our specialists diagnose the severity of foot and ankle sprains and determine the best treatment. Your doctor will likely recommend anti-inflammatory medications and functional physical therapy to help you regain strength and range of motion in your foot or ankle.
If your injury is severe, your doctor may apply a brace or cast to immobilize the area until it has healed enough to begin therapy. Crutches or a knee scooter can help you get around without putting weight on your injury.
Ruptured tendons or ligaments may require surgery.
Factors that may increase your risk of spraining or straining your foot or ankle include:
You can help reduce your risk of spraining or straining your foot or ankle by taking these precautions:
To learn more about foot and ankle sprains and strains or make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist: Call TriHealth at 513 246 2300 or our orthopedic partner, Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, at 513 354 3700.