Sprained ankles are probably the most common traumatic injuries relating to the feet and ankles, if not the entire body. Activities like running, jumping, pivoting, moving side to side, or just walking on uneven terrain can put incredible force loads on the ankle. One slip or wrong step at the wrong time may be all that’s needed to twist your ankle beyond its normal range of motion.
Despite how common they are, many people, unfortunately, underestimate both the short-term and long-term consequences of a sprain—or even fail to realize there’s been a more serious injury, such as a break. So if you believe you’ve injured your ankle, don’t try to “walk it off.” Seek our help right away!
Ankle Sprains: A Quick Overview
For most people, an ankle sprain is a “you know it when you see it” type of injury, but it helps to know what’s actually going on under the surface.
The ankle itself is a highly complex joint, surrounded and supported by several major ligaments. Under normal circumstances, these ligaments help stabilize the joint, keeping the bones properly aligned and preventing an excessive range of motion.
If you unexpectedly twist, roll, or otherwise hyperextend any of these ligaments, however, they can become overstretched or even torn. Ankle sprains are usually classified as grade I, II, or III based on severity:
- Grade I: Light stretching or slight tearing of one or more ligaments causes mild tenderness, swelling, stiffness, and pain.
- Grade II: Incomplete tearing of one or more ligaments causes more severe pain and swelling, possible bruising, and often moderate ankle instability and difficulty walking.
- Grade III: Total rupture of at least one ligament, with severe pain, bruising, and swelling, as well as significant instability in the joint. Walking may not be possible (and is definitely not advisable, regardless).
While a Grade III sprain is obviously a much more serious problem than a Grade I, that does not mean a mild sprain should be considered a minor injury! All sprains, regardless of severity, should be evaluated professionally and treated properly.
What You Should Do If You Think You May Have Sprained Your Ankle
There are two significant steps you should take any time you suspect a sprain or any other ankle injury.
Stop what you’re doing and begin RICE therapy.
Don’t try to keep walking or playing on an injured ankle, as this may only make the injury worse.
RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation:
- REST means avoiding putting weight on the ankle as much as possible or performing any activities that could aggravate the injury.
- ICE means using ice or cold therapy for up to 30 minutes at a time, up to 4 times per day. Do not apply ice directly to exposed skin.
- COMPRESSION means wrapping the ankle in a compression wrap or bandage if you have one and know how to apply it properly without it being too tight.
- ELEVATION means keeping your ankle above chest level as often as you can, or at least propped up somehow, while you sit or recline.
Studies show that doing this within the first 48-72 hours following an injury can go a long way toward easing early pain and swelling and set you on a path toward better long-term results.
Give our office a call.
While it’s true that mild sprains can often be treated at home, it’s still important that you follow the appropriate steps and ensure your ankle has the protection and care it needs to fully heal. If your sprain is not treated and rehabilitated properly, it sets the stage for not only more sprains but potentially even chronic arthritis and joint instability.
With ankle sprains, “better safe than sorry” definitely applies. We want to make sure you’re well prepared to handle the next steps, and can advise you on the proper course of action.
Ankle Sprain Treatment at Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Centers
Treatment for sprains depends on the severity of the injury, as well as other factors. Your personal treatment plan may include elements of the following:
- Continued use of RICE therapy.
- Pain-relieving medications.
- Bracing or taping to support the ankle during healing.
- Immobilization (via a cast or walking boot) if the sprain is especially severe.
- Specific exercises and stretches to rehab the ankle after the injury. It’s important to do these in a carefully controlled manner and according to our specific timetable in order to minimize the risk of re-injury.
In rare cases, surgery to repair torn ligaments may be considered if the sprain isn’t able to fully heal properly. This is more likely if you’ve already had sprains in the past and the joint has become chronically painful or unstable. While surgery has a good prognosis, we generally won’t recommend it unless non-surgical treatment alternatives have been exhausted first.
Your Partners in Foot and Ankle Sports Injury Care
Whenever you injure your ankle, trust our experienced doctors to help you return to stable footing as quickly and safely as possible.
In addition to providing personalized treatment plans tailored to your specific needs, our team will also give you the guidance you need to protect your ankles over the long term. Modifying the shoes you wear, the ways you train or exercise, or even adding custom orthotics are just a few examples of the small changes you may be able to make that can go a long way toward minimizing your future injury risk.
Don’t wait any longer to get the care you need for an ankle injury. Call our team today at (816) 455-1155, or complete our contact form to request an appointment at one of our six convenient locations.