A high ankle sprain can sideline you for weeks or months if a quick diagnosis is not made. As the most severe type of ankle sprain, it frequently involves a fracture and other complications, meaning it is not a problem to be ignored. Obtaining all the correct information from symptoms to treatment will help you recover faster. Take a look at this informative injury guide to get you back on your feet!
The ankle joint is comprised of the tibia, fibula, and talus, connected by many ligaments and tendons that hold this joint together. The high ankle ligaments join together the lower parts of the tibia and fibula and are called the distal tibiofibular syndesmosis. When the high ankle ligaments are torn or damaged pain is felt above the ankle joint.
High Ankle Sprain Grading
High ankle sprains are graded based on the same system as other types of sprain. The grading system will guide your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for your unique situation.
There is a partial tear of the ligaments with mild swelling. Suffers report mild pain when walking and recovery is quick.
The ligaments have a significant tear. Mobility is greatly impaired and there is notable bruising and swelling.
A grade three sprain occurs with the most significant damage. There is a complete tear through the ligaments. You are unable to bear weight on the foot and will have severe bruising and swelling in the ankle and foot.
High Ankle Sprain Causes
High ankle sprains are characteristically caused when the foot is turned toward the outside of the body, unlike a lateral ankle sprain where the injury is usually when the foot rolls inward. High ankle sprains are much less common than a lateral ankle sprain and take quite a bit longer to heal.
Here are a few of the most common causes of high ankle sprains:
Slips on ice
Extensive running or walking
High Ankle Sprain Symptoms
High ankle sprain symptoms are different from related conditions but can be just as serious. If you have the symptoms listed below, immobilize your ankle and make an appointment with your doctor.
Bruising and swelling, especially above the ankle bone
Pain above the ankle joint
Unable to walk without the support of crutches
Significant pain when attempting to push off the toes or rotate your foot outward
Diagnosing a High Ankle Sprain
A high ankle sprain test will include a physical exam and a full health history done by your doctor. If it is determined that you likely have a high ankle sprain then you should expect to have additional testing done for a conclusive diagnosis.
A high ankle sprain squeeze test is when your doctor or a physical therapist squeezes your leg just below the knee. It is considered a positive test if you experience pain in the high ankle ligament area.
External Rotation Test
With this test, your doctor will have you keep your knee bent and your foot at a 90 degree angle. Then, your doctor will have you turn your foot to the outside. A positive result is when you experience pain at the high ankle ligament area.
High ankle sprain pictures done with an x-ray will determine if you have a bone fracture. It is not uncommon to have a fibula fracture in addition to a high ankle sprain.
Similar to a CT, an MRI will allow your doctor to have a better picture of the inside of your ankle to determine if there is additional damage. An MRI is a great diagnostic tool for visualizing the ligament injury found in a high ankle sprain.
High Ankle Sprain Treatment
How to treat a high ankle sprain is a question that all people have after they’ve injured their ankle. Treatment varies based on severity, and the faster you obtain treatment the faster you will recover.
A quality ice pack is one of the most versatile and effective treatments for sprains of all kinds. Get yours today. ( See Product at Amazon )
Ice therapy decreases swelling and pain in your ankle after an injury. Ice your ankle for twenty minutes at a time every two hours while you are awake. It is recommended to follow this protocol for the first 48-72 hours after an ankle injury. The perfect ice pack is flexible when cold, so as to not hurt your ankle when you wrap it.
Elevation and Immobilization
If you believe that you have a high ankle sprain you should immediately immobilize your foot and ankle. Further movement can damage the already injured ligaments. Immobilization can be done with a brace or splint before you are able to see your doctor.
High Ankle Sprain Brace
A high ankle sprain brace will minimize movement in your ankle and aid in recovery. The brace you choose should give a small amount of compression and support your ankle. Below we cover two different types of ankle braces.
Ankle Stabilizer Brace
Protect and support your injured joint throughout the entire recovery process with a quality ankle brace. ( See Product at Amazon )
High ankle sprain treatment with a brace focuses on stabilization, compression, and reducing reinjury. After your injury, you’ll need a heavy duty ankle brace that will stabilize your injury and can be adjusted to accommodate your swollen foot.
As your healing progresses, you will want a lightweight ankle brace that isn’t bulky and fits under your clothes. The chance of ankle reinjury decreases with an ankle brace, so make sure you grab one as soon as possible.
Supremely lightweight and discreet, see what other benefits an ankle sleeve has to offer. ( See Product at Amazon )
Many people want support even after their ankle has healed. The pain of a high ankle injury isn’t easily forgotten, so we recommend an ankle sleeve to give your ankle a little support. Look for an ankle sleeve that is breathable and machine washable.
High Ankle Sprain Rehab
Balance exercises and ankle mobility are a great way to start a high ankle sprain rehab program. Begin with the balance exercises and move your way onto the ankle mobility moves.
Step 1: Stand with uninjured foot on a step.
Step 2: With the uninjured foot, move up onto toes.
Step 3: Balance for a moment.
Step 4: Bring uninjured foot back down.
Step 5: On injured foot, move up onto toes.
Step 6: Balance for a moment.
Ankle Mobility and Exercises
Step 1: Sit with both feet on the ground.
Step 2: Move your heel up and down.
Step 3: Wrap an exercise band near your toes.
Step 4: Pull the band towards your body.
Step 5: Pull the band away from your body.
High ankle sprain surgery is needed when there is a tear in the ligaments or a bone fracture. Your doctor will decide if you need surgery based on physical exam and diagnostic imaging.
High Ankle Sprain Recovery Time
It is very important to note that high ankle sprain recovery is significantly different than the common lateral ankle sprain. High ankle sprain recovery time depends on the severity of the sprain and if surgery is necessary, taking several months to recover if surgery is not needed. If you do have surgery expect up to six months for a full recovery.
Moving on After a High Ankle Sprain
A high ankle sprain is a painful injury that occurs when the syndesmosis ligament between the tibia and fibula is damaged. It is different than the typical ankle sprain and requires immediate and specialized treatment. If you are suffering from pain above your ankle, this guide will answer all your questions and help you get back to the activities you love faster!
Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.
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