If you take a bad step, twist your foot strangely, and suddenly feel an intense pain or snapping sensation along the top of your foot, then you've probably torn a ligament. This is not a very common injury since the ligaments in the foot are really strong and tough, but it is an injury that happens from time to time. You should always see a sports medicine doctor or podiatrist when a torn ligament is suspected. Here's a look at how they will diagnose and treat you.
Diagnosing a Torn Ligament in the Foot
Typically, your sports medicine doctor will begin by reviewing your symptoms. They'll note any swelling and bruising in the foot and its location. They'll also palpate along your foot to see where, exactly, it is sore. Your doctor will also ask you to describe when, where, and how the injury occurred.
After evaluating your symptoms, the doctor may send you for an X-ray. This will allow them to rule out a broken metatarsal bone and other injuries that can occasionally mimic a torn ligament. It will also give them a better idea of how serious the tear is.
Treating a Torn Ligament in the Foot
If your doctor determines that you did tear a ligament in your foot, then they will recommend one of these treatments, depending on the severity of the tear.
A Boot and Conservative Care
For milder tears, you may be fitted with a protective boot to wear for a month or two. This will prevent you from accidentally tearing the ligament any further as you walk. It will also reduce the amount that your foot moves, limiting the strain that the ligament experiences over time.
You'll also need to remove the boot, ice your foot, and do some gentle stretching exercises each day. You may be prescribed NSAID pain relievers to help with the pain and inflammation.
More severe tears often need to be surgically repaired. Your surgeon may want to wait a couple of weeks to operate in order to give the swelling a chance to dissipate first. An incision will be made in the top of your foot, and your ligament will be repaired. You'll then need to rest and ice your foot, wear a boot, and walk with crutches for several weeks before you begin physical therapy to restrengthen the area.
If you suspect you've torn a ligament in the top of your foot, make an appointment with a doctor, sooner rather than later. These injuries can be serious, and they require professional care. For more information, contact a podiatric surgeon.