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Common Running Injuries - Ankle Strain and Sprain

Common Running Injuries - Ankle Strain and Sprain

Strains and sprains are usually the result of a long-term chronic tightening of the muscles and tendons concerned.

A strain, often called a ‘pull’, involves the tearing of muscles or tendons. This may range from a microscopic tear of the muscles or tendons surrounding the ankle, to a total rupture of the attachment of the muscle’s tendon to the bone. A sprain is when ligaments become stretched beyond their normal range of motion.






Strains and sprains are usually the result of a long-term chronic tightening of the muscles and tendons concerned. This is caused when a bio-mechanical problem, involving the pelvis and feet, is exacerbated by prolonged over-training. Although the immediate cause may seem to be a single sudden movement, such as a slip, it’s usually a long-term problem.


Similarly, a sprain is often the result of a bio-mechanical problem, while the immediate cause is missing your step or uneven ground, slipping or stumbling.



Ankle Strain and Sprain (2)





An ankle sprain, involving stretching or tearing of the inner or out ankle ligaments, varies from mild over stretching to complete rupture. The outside of the ankle is most commonly affected.


The pain can be mild to start with, but then the area begins to swell and become more painful. There is often bruising of the area and the ankle can become very unstable.


The ankle will be painful when you stretch or move it. There may be associated pain in the foot and calf.







When the strain injury occurs, stop immediately and don’t try to run through the discomfort. Ice the area for 15 minutes at a time for four or five times the first day.


The next day, switch to alternate hot and cold showers - one minute hot, followed by one minute cold, repeated three or four times. Do this three times a day until there’s a significant improvement. Most importantly, see a therapist who uses manual massage techniques as this will usually heal the area fairly quickly, unless it’s a severe strain.


A sprained ankle is often a more severe injury than a strain (depending on the severity) but the treatment is similar. You should, however, ice the area for three or four days, instead of one, before going over to hot and cold showers.


Again massage is usually very helpful in allowing the area to heal. Severe sprains, however, will need doctor’s attention and may require total immobilisation. A sprain usually takes longer to heal than a strain, and there may be some muscle atrophy and ankle instability for a while.



Ankle Strain and Sprain (1)





To prevent strains and sprains occurring you need to find out the cause of the injury, which usually means getting to the bio-mechanical problem. A good sports osteopath is uniquely qualified to do this. The use of orthotics may also be well advised. It is, of course, always essential to warm up properly before a training session. It may be necessary to wear an ankle support for a while, but you should discard this when the bio-mechanical cause has been dealt with.


This, along with lower leg-strengthening exercises, regular massage, good warm-ups and ankle support will often be enough to prevent the problem recurring.


Graeme Stroud ND, MRN, DO, ACOH is an osteopath, naturopath, certified zen body therapist and a qualified healer.



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