The ankle, like the wrist or even the knee, is a relatively fragile joint or one which can be weakened. It is also a primordial articulation since it makes it possible to walk correctly. It is this which gives the possibility of flexion or extension of the foot, as well as the lateral movements of supination and pronation, or even of abduction and adduction.
For all these reasons, care must be taken over this joint, which will sometimes be necessary to immobilize. For this, we use an ankle brace, either a splint or an ankle. Here is what you need to know about the various devices aimed at stabilizing the ankle.
A sprained ankle, a very common ailment
Each year, simply in France, it is estimated that more than 2 million people have an ankle sprain. It can be mild or more severe depending on the case, but around 6,000 people a day twist their ankles.
It is a trauma that represents in particular around 20% of sports accidents. We must be vigilant, because a small disabling sprain, can leave sequelae or chronic pain if we do not treat ourselves correctly.
There are several levels of sprain severity, which are classified as damage to the joint, whether the ligaments are slightly affected or completely torn off. These are therefore stages of severity which range from 0 for slight painless instability, to 3 for a painful sprain and a joint undergoing chronic instability.
To treat a sprain, there are not 50 solutions, you have to immobilize the ankle using an orthosis. There are two possible choices depending on the damage of the joint, namely an ankle for less severe cases, and a splint providing greater immobilization for the most severe sprains.
The different types of splints and ankles
The stabilizing splint
It is indicated for the orthopedic and functional treatment of a sprain of moderate or severe gravity. It will firmly support an ankle with malleolar lesions, chronic laxity, or even some instability in the ligaments.
This splint consists of two plastic shells covered with foam. There are different types, some with soft aerated foam, others stabilizing and cooling to act on edemas and pain, or others in the honeycomb to better let the air pass.
The splint of resumption of activity
It is a splint that is generally used for the resumption of sporting activity. They are thought to help maintain an ankle that is better, but which had suffered a sprain and greater immobilization before.
Elastic compression ankles
For benign sprains or for a fragile ankle, this ankle will allow maintaining the joint while keeping the ankle in the axis of the foot. We find models with open feet or closed feet, we put them in place exactly as if we were putting on a sock.
This ankle brace will protect and support the ankle against knocks or trauma, and provide a heating effect which aims to reduce edema. It is possible to choose the level of compression between medium or strong. We also note that there are ankles in the sport range, which allow the foot to move properly while providing some support.
Strap ligament ankle
This device is used to strengthen the lateral ligaments. There are stabilization straps, also known as recall straps, with sometimes foam reinforcements at the malleoli. This ankle brace is useful for a mild to medium sprain. We can prescribe this type of ankle for the resumption of sport, since the ankle is maintained, without being completely immobilized.
Achilles tendon protection ankle
As the name suggests, this ankle is designed to protect the Achilles tendon. It is a sock fitted with a heel generally made of silicone, which will absorb as much as possible the shock of walking. The tendon is thus less under tension. It is often necessary to use a second heel on the other foot to properly balance the legs.
The immobilization boot
It is generally used for severe or very severe sprains, before and after an operation. It has an analgesic effect thanks to the complete immobilization of the ankle and allows a reduction of edema by means of compression that can be adjusted.
Ankle splint: why wear an ankle brace?
The main function of the ankle brace also called an ankle brace, is to help maintain the joint when it fails. As a reminder, the ankle is the joint of the human body that connects the foot and the leg. This very fragile junction point is often subject to various more or less painful traumas. From simple ligament stretching to a severe sprain, fracture, or tendonitis, the ankle is an extremely vulnerable area.
For example, following a direct impact, flexion of the foot, or a fall, it is not uncommon to have a sprain. This lesion can be benign and not very serious when it is a simple ligament stretching. This is commonly known as a sprain. But the sprain can also be much more serious and compromise mobility when a tear in one or more joint ligaments occurs.
In this case, wearing an ankle splint is often the best solution. Indeed, this orthopedic equipment makes it possible to stabilize and immobilize the joint. In this way, the ankle brace helps promote the healing of the ligaments. Healing then occurs more quickly.
When to wear an ankle brace?
A sprain, muscle stretch, or sprain usually requires the advice of a doctor. If you are the victim of such an injury, a health professional will certainly recommend immobilizing the joint using an ankle splint.
This stabilizing orthosis plays several roles. As we have already explained, it helps damaged tissue to repair itself faster. It also relieves pain and eases edema by compressing the swollen area.
We have identified the main situations that require the intervention of an ankle brace:
In case of traumatic injury
All trauma to the joint is likely to require the wearing of an ankle brace. The objective is always the same: to maintain the foot in order to speed up healing. The splint also provides an analgesic effect by reducing the pain caused by foot movements. It is also useful during tendonitis, which is characterized by inflammation of the tendons.
In the event of a resumption of a sporting activity
The ankle brace can be advised when resuming a sport or a leisure activity after a sprain (football, basketball, tennis, volleyball, gymnastics …). By wearing it preventively, the athlete reduces the risk of injury again. The articulation is perfectly maintained while being protected from possible shocks.
After a period of immobilization
If the patient has been immobilized due to a fracture, wearing an ankle splint allows him to protect his weakened ankle. In addition, this orthosis supports the rehabilitation of the joint that has been immobile for too long.
Within the framework of a post-operative functional follow-up
The ankle orthosis is usually recommended after a surgical operation in order to accelerate healing by preventing movements that are too sudden.
Note that most of the time, this medical device is sold without a prescription. They are found in pharmacies as well as on the internet at advantageous prices. You can therefore easily buy them according to your needs. And how much does that cost? Not very expensive. The purchase price varies between 15 and 50 euros depending on the products (Aircast, Axmed, Thuasne, Donjoy…). A refund is possible if you have a prescription.
The Benefits of the Ankle Splint
Worn on the left or right, rigid or flexible, fixed or removable, for children or adults, the ankle harness has long demonstrated its effectiveness. Among other things, it allows you to:
Stabilize the foot
Immobilization using an ankle brace keeps the ankle in place and accelerates healing by promoting the healing of stretched or torn ligaments.
The pressure exerted by the ankle brace has the effect of reducing the swelling caused by the sprain. This restraint brings immediate relief.
Stabilizing the ankle with an ankle brace provides an analgesic effect by reducing foot movements.
The other advantages of an ankle splint are its ease of use. In general, it is easy to put on: you just have to put it on. Some lace up like a shoe to fit the shape of the ankle.
Its design involves flexible, elastic, and robust materials: cotton, foam, neoprene, latex, etc. The user benefits from hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial, and antiperspirant textiles which prevent the development of odors. As for maintenance, there is nothing very complicated. Just wash it by hand with soap and let it air dry.
Add to this that the designers of orthopedic equipment are redoubling their ingenuity to design ever more comfortable models. The inflatable splint with cold pockets is the perfect illustration. Here, all the conditions are met to guarantee the patient, day and night, maximum comfort as well as a speedy recovery.
How to choose a splint or ankle brace?
An ankle sprain is one of the most poorly treated pathologies in sports trauma. This is due to the fact that too many individuals do not worry and downplay the diagnosis. Indeed, sometimes the pain is really modest, and therefore we stop the treatment, we resume sport too quickly, and then we can keep the aftereffects for our whole life. There is also at least 30% recurrence after a sprained ankle, usually due to too rapid recovery.
Making the right choice is therefore essential, and a responsible and concerned patient in their recovery will obviously be quite right to take a serious interest in the various devices found on the market.
So there are a few questions to ask yourself: How bad is my injury? What splint or ankle brace to wear after a trauma, for prevention during sport or when resuming activity?
What you should know about treating a sprain
You have to choose the right ankle brace or splint, because if you outsource a sprain because it is too light or too short in time, then this can cause serious complications. We can then experience chronic instability in our ankle, and then sprains will become common. There is nothing worse for a sportsman than to be weakened and to fear an injury with each effort.
We can also fear greater sequelae such as a tendon with pain, a bone lesion, osteoarthritis, or even joint stiffness which will considerably reduce our performance. That is why good rehabilitation is always very important.
However, it is also important to avoid over-treating a sprain, as long-term negative effects can be felt. The joint is made to move, that’s why the physiotherapist makes you do exercises, even if it still hurts. It is necessary to re-educate the joint, as well on the muscular level as ligament after immobilization of long duration, and especially before resuming a normal sporting activity.
We also know that mobilization (which is opposed to immobilization) will very often increase the resistance of the ligaments. This improves wound healing by stimulating the body, which then produces superior quality collagen.
It is always advisable, even for a mild sprain, to visit the doctor about 3 to 5 days after an injury. Thus, we will eliminate the risks of under-treatment, or over-treatment, and be able to choose the splint or the ankle that we need perfectly. Finally, additional examinations may be deemed useful by the doctor.