Signs of a Foot Sprain

A foot sprain can limit your mobility and affect your overall ability to exercise and function. Foot sprains can be difficult to diagnose because there are so very many injuries that can cause foot pain. You will be best off if you visit a doctor relatively soon after injuring your foot so you can determine if the pain you are experiencing is from a sprain, a fracture, an ankle injury or a bone spur.

The common signs of a foot sprain include:

  • Pain in a small segment of your foot, usually by the metatarsal joint which connects your toes with other bones in your foot
  • Pain that is not excruciating, but rather feels like a deep ache
  • Mild swelling of a band at the bottom of your foot
  • Pain that is somewhat relieved by massaging the area

A true diagnosis of a foot sprain must be done by a doctor. You don't want to miss a diagnosis of something more serious like a fracture.

What To Do
As soon as you suspect you've sprained your foot, follow the instructions for foot sprain treatment described by this acronym: RICE. The letters stand for Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate:

  • Rest your foot: Get off your feet as soon as possible. If you can, don't put weight on your sprained foot for the remainder of the day. When you do have to walk, be gentle with your injured foot.  Walk gingerly.
  • Ice your foot: Wrap ice in a towel and apply it for 20-minute increments to the sprain. After 20 minutes of icing, give the sprain a 10- to 20-minute break, then ice again. Repeat this process as many times as possible during the day.
  • Compress the sprained foot: Wrap your foot with a bandage to prevent swelling. Make sure to loosen the bandages if the swelling is excessive; you don't want to restrict blood flow to your foot, but you do want to provide support to the injured joint.
  • Elevate your foot: Try to elevate your foot above your heart for at least twenty minutes after the sprain occurs. If swelling ensues, keep the foot elevated as much as possible for the remainder of the day.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory drug: Take the prescribed dose of an anti-inflammatory drug, such as Advil or Aleve, round the clock for the next 48 hours.

See a doctor if:

  • The swelling is excessive
  • A hematoma forms
  • You cannot stand on the foot
  • Extensive bruising follows

Allow Your Foot to Heal
You may need to wear a cast or an immobilization boot if the sprain is significant. You may also need surgery if the ligament tore completely. Most sprained feet need rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and time to repair for several weeks. Do not resume exercise that uses your foot until you are sure you have healed completely. In the meantime, try swimming. The cold water works as an anti-inflammatory agent and the foot will not be affected while you get a whole body workout.

Once your foot has healed, you will want to do exercises and stretches to strengthen and stretch your ligaments, tendons and muscles in that foot. The following exercises will prevent future injuries:

  • Pick up a towel with your toes: Try picking up a small hand towel with your toes. This will stretch and strengthen the ligaments, muscles and tendons in your foot.
  • Stand on the edge of the stairs: Allow the back of your heels to fall off the step as you allow your calve muscles to stretch. Come up on your toes, then relax and let the heels hang off the step again.
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