Feelin' no pain! But definitely injured-- good thing or bad thing?
January 24, 2014 3:08 PM   Subscribe

YANMD, I know... BUT, sometime between yesterday night and the day before, I definitely injured my ankle. I noticed it feeling a little weird earlier in the day, but was rushing around traveling, so didn't notice until I got to my destination that it's super swollen on the outside right behind the ankle bone. Googling makes me think I've injured my peroneal tendon (I was playing around on a slackline the night before so I must have rolled it?), but the catch is that it doesn't hurt. Part of the outside of my ankle is numb to the touch, and I've been taking ibuprofen to keep the swelling down, but I'm otherwise unsure of what to do as pain is usually my signal for whether to stay off of something or not. For example: I usually run around 8 miles 3x/week-- can I do that still? Or am I tempting disaster? I've never sprained an ankle or injured them in any other way, so I am not even sure how long to rest it or whether to elevate it or what. Suggestions?
posted by shaka_lulu to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
If in doubt, stay off it for a few days. Substitute some biking or swimming for your run tomorrow, perhaps? Then reassess in a day or two.
posted by killdevil at 3:29 PM on January 24, 2014

See a doctor. It is rare, but possible you injured a nerve in there. A doctor will be able to tell you definitely if you should stay off of it or not. I'd not engage in activity if my ankle was very swollen regardless of the amount of pain.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:56 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it's numb you might have nerve damage.
posted by bq at 4:49 PM on January 24, 2014

I'm otherwise unsure of what to do as pain is usually my signal for whether to stay off of something or not. For example: I usually run around 8 miles 3x/week-- can I do that still? Or am I tempting disaster?

Stay off of it! I know from experience that torn ligaments don't necessary hurt, at least not at first. I would bet that there are also other injuries that are relatively painless yet can be(come) major problems. You can't go by the fact that you're numb rather than in pain to tell you how badly you're injured or what the consequences of stressing that injury might be.

The swelling, numbness, pain, and the bad feeling you're getting that something is wrong are likely signs that you *have* injured your ankle -- and ankles are delicate and can take a long time to heal in the best of times, so you want to be careful if that's the case. If your ankle is injured you really could screw the pooch by putting it under more stress.

If it's swollen use ice packs to keep the swelling down as much as possible. Use an ace bandage to wrap your ankle tightly so it has a good bit of support -- it should be tight enough that you can't really move your ankle. Try to keep off of it as much as you can, literally not even putting your weight on it while you're standing, and walking as little as possible. When you're sitting down, *always* try to keep your ankle elevated, it'll help with keeping the swelling down as well. Don't apply heat -- right after an injury, heat is a good idea, but after the first few hours/day it can exacerbate things like swelling, and swelling itself can exacerbate injury. Always use ice instead (a bag of frozen peas works well, and you can wrap it in place with the bandage).

I'm not big on going to the doctor myself, but this is *definitely* a time for a medical professional to take a look -- the athletic trainer at your gym might be a good person to go see. Go ASAP so they can tell you how you should take care of this and how long you'll have to stay off of it. They might tell you to go to your doctor or a PT trainer -- if they do, follow that advice, it isn't overkill. Healing probably won't take more than time and rest (and a couple bandages), but it does require a *lot* of those things and you don't want to keep throwing it back to square one by over-stressing the joint.

Just as a cautionary tale: I played volleyball in high school, and one day was goofing off doing this vertical jump drill. Of course, as I was goofing off I landed funny and hurt my ankle. I took a five minute break or something, my ankle felt fine, and I played the rest of practice. I went home and ate dinner, and during the meal, my ankle swelled up so much it was uncomfortable to walk on. A couple days later this huge, sort of weird-looking bruise (which didn't hurt) showed up on the outside of my ankle, running between my ankle and my heel. When I finally went to the athletic trainer at school, it turned out that I had sprained my ankle and torn a ligament (the weird bruise was the blood that had been in my ankle from the tear). I was off my ankle 100% for four weeks, couldn't fully play with my team until two weeks after that, and it took literally *years* (2-3) until my ankle was 100% and I could no longer tell that it had ever been injured. And when I was injured, I was a fifteen-year-old used to 20+ hours of intense exercise a week, ie, I was someone who was going to heal faster than most.

I know that this sounds like making a mountain out of a molehill, but seriously, if you're not feeling a lot of pain but have other signs of injury (swelling, numbness, a bad feeling about it), it means that there could be more complicated injuries going on, and the stress that you put on that injury now might increase your healing time exponentially.
posted by rue72 at 5:59 PM on January 24, 2014

Wow! I had an almost identical injury as rue72 about six months ago - same spot, same interesting bruise, swelling, etc.

I had an MRI which showed a partially torn deltoid ligament, a crack in some bone that the tibia and fibula sit right above (round, dome-shaped bone), and the tip broken off the fibula. Nothing needed surgery and I was given a huge, heavy boot to wear which brought me to near-fall stage every time I tried walking in it. I finally decided the risk of fall was too great, took off the boot except for when I was sleeping, and bought a cane, which helped immeasurably.

It took a couple of months for the swelling and bruise to go away and I'm now in the year-after-the-injury time period, meaning that it's far from healed inside - still pulls a squeak out of me when I turn it just right - but it's much, much better than it was. In time, it will probably go away entirely - or I'll just be one of those crotchetly old people with a "bad ankle."

It's surprising how long it takes musculoskeletal injuries to fully heal, isn't it?
posted by aryma at 6:17 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Numb? Go to a doctor. That indicates possible nerve involvement.
posted by windykites at 6:24 PM on January 24, 2014

Do. Not. Run. Your body is trying to tell you something there and you need to listen to it.
posted by azpenguin at 8:32 PM on January 24, 2014

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