What Is a Dislocated Ankle?
A dislocated ankle is an injury that occurs when a large amount of direct or twisting force is applied to the articular surface of the ankle, causing the bone to move out of its normal position. A dislocated ankle requires so much force that a dislocation is hardly ever found without being accompanied by some sort of fracture. Even without a fracture the dislocation can do a lot of damage to the area, especially to the ligaments and the joint. This will usually take a significant amount of time to heal.
Signs of a dislocated ankle may include pain in the localized area, ankle deformity, tenderness upon touching, inability to carry weight and substantial swelling. These signs do not necessarily mean you have a dislocated ankle. Until X-rays can be done of the anteroposterior, lateral and oblique views, it is hard to concretely determine whether the ankle has been dislocated.
Treatment is the first part of the healing process. Without immediate treatment, blood vessels and nerve endings that are caught in the dislocation can be permanently cut off from blood supply. This could cause severe ischemic and avascular necrosis in the area. First the doctor must relocate the bone to the proper position, in essence setting the bone back in place. Once the bone is set back in place, the doctor will wrap the area in a fiberglass cast or splint to ensure that the bone remains in place until it has had a chance to heal.
How It Heals
The healing of a dislocation largely has to do with cells called fibroblasts and osteoblasts. These fibroblasts are collagen fibers that your body produces, which in turn make and repair the connective tissues (such as ligaments) of your body. Once the ligaments are injured, the brain sends a signal to the fibroblasts to head to the affected area and multiply. As they multiply they heal the affected ligament area in the dislocation. Since most dislocations are also accompanied by bone fractures, osteoblasts are also needed for the healing process. Osteoblasts are similar to fibroblasts, except instead of creating new connective tissue they create bone. When a bone is broken or fractured, the brain sends a signal to the osteoblasts to head to the affected area, multiply and repair the bone. As long as the bone has been set back in place, the osteoblasts and fibroblasts should be able to heal the bone back to its original state. However, if the bone is not reset in time, the two cells may end up healing the bone into the wrong place, causing further problems in the future.
Once the new bone and ligaments have been produced by the osteoblasts and the fibroblasts, the new tissue must be strengthened. This is done through physical therapy. Physical therapy slowly introduces work and stress on the new tissues to help them strengthen and regain their flexibility. Without this process, the injury could be easily prone to dislocation at a later time.