An ankle sprain is likely the most common injury that affects our feet, with tens of thousands of Americans spraining their ankle each and every day. Many people try to walk off these sprains and go about their day, and for those with a very minor sprain, they may eventually feel back to normal, even if that probably wasn’t the ideal form of treatment. For others, trying to push through an ankle sprain can lead to a number of problems in the short- and long-term. In today’s blog, we caution against “walking off” an ankle sprain by looking at some of the problems associated with untreated ankle sprains.

Don’t Ignore A Sprained Ankle

Even though a number of ankle sprains are mild or moderate in nature, you shouldn’t just keep going about your day as normal. If you ignore a sprain, here are some of the things that you may have to deal with in the future:

  • Lingering Pain – If you keep putting stress on your ankle ligaments while they are in a weakened or damaged state, they are going to have a harder time recovering. That’s not to say you should be off your feet for a week after a sprain, but you want to be mindful of the stress you’re putting on your foot while it’s in a weakened state so as not to overload it, otherwise pain and symptoms can linger.
  • Further Damage – Similarly, if you continue to put strain on your ankle ligaments while they are injured, it can lead to more ligament tearing. A minor injury can become a major issue if you try to push through the pain and cause more ligament damage or suffer a more significant sprain.  Days or weeks of rehabilitation can quickly become months if you end up doing more damage to the area because you ignored treatment.
  • Arthritis – An untreated ankle sprain can actually lead to an unstable ankle joint if the ligaments never heal properly. This can lead to faster joint degeneration and earlier arthritis onset, making movement even more painful. This may not happen over the course of months, but it could happen in your 40s or 50s because you ignored ankle issues in your youth.
  • Knee and Hip Problems – Untreated ankle injuries can also cause problems for other areas of your body. If you’re limping, hobbling or your gait is affected by your ankle sprain, your body will inherently change how stress is displaced on your lower body. All of a sudden your hips or one knee may be bearing more strain, which can lead to faster joint degeneration. It’s not uncommon for hip or knee pain to be traced back to an unaddressed problem in the feet.
  • Balance Issues – If you never really give your ankle what it needs to heal properly, you may end up with one ankle that’s weaker than the other. This strength difference can actually affect our balance and coordination, putting you at an increased risk for a fall. Again, this won’t happen overnight, but it can cause significant balance issues later in life.
  • Problems For Athletes – Finally, untreated ankle issues can cause a number of problems for athletes. A lot of the issues listed above can cause problems for athletes, but the simple fact is that if you don’t treat an ankle sprain, it can affect your ability to play sports as you once did. Even if your ankle isn’t painful, if you don’t work to strengthen your ankle ligaments, you may find that you have less trust in your ankle, and you need to be able to trust your body during competition. Untreated ankle sprains can also slow you down and increase your risk of a more severe injury during the rigors of athletic competition. Don’t return to sports until you’ve restored confidence in your ankle by rehabbing the area.

Unaddressed ankle sprains can cause a number of issues now and down the road, so don’t put off treatment. The sooner you attack the problem with conservative care or by connecting with a foot specialist who can set you up with an individualized treatment plan, the sooner you can get back to doing all the activities you love with confidence in your feet. For more information, or for help with your foot or ankle issue, reach out to Dr. McDonald and his team today.

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