Posted by Michael Barber, January 20, 2014 (last updated on November 28, 2018)
Winter weather creates many seasonal hazards that you may not think to watch out for. A short walk that’s perfectly safe for most of the year can suddenly become hazardous when snow and ice are on the ground. If you’ve fallen, these signs will help you determine whether you have a sprain and how to handle the injury.
You Painfully Twisted Your Ankle
Ankle sprains occur when the ankle rolls one direction while the foot moves in the other. The ligaments stretch excessively or tear as a result of this movement, which causes the sprain. If you twisted your ankle in this fashion, you may have a sprain. If you’re experiencing pain but the ankle didn’t twist like this, it’s probably a different type of injury. Pain from a sprain begins immediately after the injury, so you shouldn’t have any question as to when or how it happened.
Sprains and strains are easily confused. A sprain is the result of a traumatic injury, like slipping and falling. A strain is the result of overuse of a muscle or tendon. If you fell on the injured area and felt immediate pain, you may have sprained it. If you sustained a minor fall in the course of a long day of strenuous activity and don’t notice pain until the morning, it’s more likely that you’re dealing with a strain instead.
You Heard a Noise as You Fell
With some ankle sprains, you will hear a pop as you fall. You may also feel the tear as it moves across the ligament. This doesn’t always happen though, so a lack of this popping noise isn’t a sure indicator that you don’t have a sprain. If you’re experiencing severe pain, the noise you heard might indicate a broken bone rather than a sprain. You should seek immediate medical attention for any injury that causes extreme levels of pain.
Related: Take a Hike! (And Do It Safely)
The Ankle is Swollen and Discolored
A sprained ankle usually begins to swell immediately after the injury. The area will look and feel puffy. When you touch it gently you might notice it feels hot. You may also see bruising or redness at the injury site, though sprains do not always bruise. As you gently touch the injury, you should always feel your hand. If your ankle or foot is numb, this is a sign of a very severe sprain or fracture and requires immediate medical attention.
You Have Trouble with Movement
It’s difficult to walk with a sprained ankle. When you try to put weight on this foot, you will feel pain. The ankle may also wobble from side to side and refuse to support your weight. This is a result of the torn ligaments. The harder it is to walk and stand, the more severe your injury is.
If you believe that you’ve sprained your ankle, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as you can. The doctor will assess the severity of the injury, help you manage the pain, and assist with properly immobilizing the ankle so it can heal quickly and efficiently.