Sprains are just the worst as anyone who has had one can tell you. A sprain isn’t just an inconvenience now, it can have lasting implications.
How does a sprain happen?
An ankle sprain happens when you rapidly shift your movement. When you do that your ankle rolls inward or outward damaging the ligaments by stretching and/or tearing them. A sprain can be mild, giving you some pain, swelling and stiffness but the ability to walk easily. A moderate sprain can include swelling, bruising and tenderness and pain when walking. A severe ankle sprain will make your ankle unstable, swollen, bruised and you will be unable to walk. No matter the severity of the sprain there are long term issues that come from any sprain.
One aspect is the loss of motion and it’s consequences
The loss of motion will cause changes in how you move when walking. They may be slight, but the muscles in your butt on the side where the sprain happened will have a more difficult time contracting. This is because your heel leaves the ground a fraction of a second earlier than it should. It’s called dorsiflexion and it can lead to lower back pain or issues in the hip like bursitis.
Another issue is the damage to the ligaments themselves
Ligaments are kind of like a hard plastic. They can stretch some, but once overstretched they can’t go back to their original length. It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you remember what ligaments are there to do: provide support to the ankle joint. Once the ligament is overstretched they can’t provide the same amount of support. This means that the likelihood of re-injury is higher in the injured ankle. The ligaments also send messages to the brain about where, meaning what position, your ankle is positioned. Again this means that re-injury is more likely since your brain won’t get the message about where the ankle is when walking on uneven surfaces.
Your best option
So what can you do? Get physical therapy when you have a sprain. Your future mobility depends on it.