If you are a human, and you have ankles, odds are very high that you have done something at one point or another to muck one of them up.
Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries we see in podiatry, and you can chalk that up to how it’s truly an equal opportunity injury. A sprain can be caused by making too hard of a pivot on the basketball court, but you can also simply step into a small hole or have your heel snap off beneath you.
Again, it’s a very “human” injury.
The good news is that many sprains tend to be minor and treatable at home. However, many sprains are also bad enough that they can cause long-term problems should they not heal properly. Knowing how to respond to a sprain and when to seek treatment can go a long way toward preventing chronic issues from developing.
What is a sprain?
(Aside from painful, of course.)
When you sprain your ankle, you have caused damage to one or more of the ligaments that surround it.
Ligaments are designed to provide stability to your joints and prevent them from moving too far. When you bend or twist your ankle in an awkward way, farther than it was intended to, the ligaments can become overstretched and even tear.
The ligaments on the outer side of your ankle tend to be the ones that suffer from sprains most frequently. Think about all the times you’ve rolled your ankle or lost stability and you might notice your foot tends to shift away from your body, putting all that stress on the outer area.
The symptoms of a sprain will often depend on its severity, but you can expect:
- Pain and tenderness, particularly when you try to squeeze the ankle or bear weight on it.
- A reduction in your range of motion (and you will not want to try testing that).
Your ankle will also likely feel unstable. In severe cases, you might have also heard a “popping” sound when the sprain happened.
What should I do if I think I’ve sprained my ankle?
The first response to an ankle sprain is the easiest to follow: stop whatever it is you were doing at the time! Keep weight off your ankle as best as possible.
Address immediate swelling by applying an ice pack to the area for up to 20 minutes every 2-3 hours. Do not apply ice or a cold pack directly to the skin—wrap it in a thin cloth first. You do not want to add skin damage to your sprain.
Keep your ankle above the level of your heart when possible. This also helps reduce swelling and pain. Try to keep your ankle elevated on pillows while you sleep, as well.
Regardless of how minor or severe you believe your sprain may be, it is always best to call us and let us know what happened. Most cases can be treated fine at home but, depending on the circumstances and your symptoms, we may recommend coming in and having your ankle examined.
If there are any suspected complications with your ankle sprain, we want to address them right away. If it fails to heal properly, your risk of future sprains can significantly increase, as can your risks of chronic ankle pain, instability, and arthritis.
It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether you have badly sprained your ankle or broken a bone. Honestly, this is not something you try to figure out on your own. Whichever injury has happened, you need to see us or another professional about it right away!
Never hesitate to call our office at (262) 544-0700 whenever you have an ankle sprain. Even if we don’t recommend you come in for an evaluation, it’s still an important note to add to our records. And if you do need more advanced treatment, we’ll be able to provide it to you right away.
The R.I.C.E. method:
- Rest –Keeping off of the ankle will aid in the reduced inflammation and swelling of the tissue
- Ice –Icing the injury also aids in the reduction of swelling and helps to alleviate pain.
- Compression –This is yet another method to help reduce to swelling of the affected area.
- Elevation –Elevating the ankle not only helps to reduce blood flow to the inflamed area but can also prevent bruising.
As a patient attempts to return to normal activity, there are various strength and stability training exercises that can help. In the most severe cases, surgery may be required to reattach the ligaments in the ankle.
The actions you take immediately following a sprain directly contribute to the recovery time and methods necessary in treatment. Don’t let this ankle condition become too severe.