This is Patient Education Article – Ankle Sprain. It explains the basics of ankle sprains including signs, symptoms and basic treatment options.
What is an Ankle Sprain?
An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle. There are low ankle sprains and high ankle sprains. Low ankle sprains are more common than high ankle sprains. The ligaments can be injured on either the inside of the outside of the ankle. However, the most common ankle sprains usually occur on the outside of the ankle. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect two bones together. In the ankle joint, ligaments provide stability by limiting side-to-side movement.
Some ankle sprains are much worse than others. The severity of an ankle sprain depends on whether the ligament is stretched, partially torn, or completely torn, as well as on the number of ligaments involved. Ankle sprains are not the same as strains, which affect muscles rather than ligaments.
What Causes an Ankle Sprain?
Sprained ankles often result from a fall, a sudden twist, or a blow that forces the ankle joint out of its normal position. Ankle sprains commonly occur while participating in sports, wearing inappropriate shoes, or walking or running on an uneven surface.
Sometimes ankle sprains occur because of weak ankles, a condition that some people are born with. Previous ankle or foot injuries can also weaken the ankle and lead to sprains.
Signs & Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of ankle sprains may include:
- Pain or soreness
- Difficulty walking
- Stiffness in the joint
These symptoms may vary in intensity, depending on the severity of the sprain. Sometimes pain and swelling are absent in people with previous ankle sprains—instead, they may simply feel the ankle is wobbly and unsteady when they walk. Even if you don’t have pain or swelling with a sprained ankle, treatment is crucial. Any ankle sprain—whether it’s your first or your fifth—requires prompt medical attention.
If you think you’ve sprained your ankle you may begin using the “P.R.I.C.E.” method—Protection, Rest,Ice, Compression, and Elevation—to help reduce swelling, pain, and further injury. You should contact Dr. DeMill at Yakima Foot & Ankle for an evaluation.
Why Prompt Medical Attention is Needed
There are four key reasons why an ankle sprain should be promptly evaluated and treated.
- An untreated ankle sprain may lead to chronic ankle instability, a condition marked by persistent discomfort and a “giving way” of the ankle. You may also develop weakness in the leg.
- You may have suffered a more severe ankle injury along with the sprain. This might include a serious bone fracture that could lead to troubling complications if it goes untreated.
- An ankle sprain may be accompanied by a foot injury that causes discomfort but has gone unnoticed thus far.
- Rehabilitation of a sprained ankle needs to begin right away. If rehabilitation is delayed, the injury may be less likely to heal properly.
In evaluating your injury, Dr. DeMill will take your history to learn more about the injury. He will examine the injured area, and may order x-rays, an MRI study, or a CT scan to help determine the severity of the injury.
Non-Surgical Treatment & Rehabilitation
When you have an ankle sprain, rehabilitation is crucial—and it starts the moment your treatment begins. Dr. DeMill may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Immobilization.Depending on the severity of your injury, you may receive a short-leg cast, a walking boot, or a brace to keep your ankle from moving. You may also need crutches.
- Early Physical Therapy.Your doctor will start you on a rehabilitation program as soon as possible to promote healing and increase your range of motion. This includes doing prescribed exercises.
- Medications.Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. In some cases, prescription pain medications are needed to provide adequate relief.
- Icing.You may be advised to ice your injury several times a day until the pain and swelling resolves. Wrap ice cubes, or a bag of frozen peas or corn, in a thin towel. Do not put ice directly on your skin.
- Compression Wraps.To prevent further swelling, you may need to keep your ankle wrapped in an elastic bandage or stocking.
When Is Surgery Needed
In more severe cases, surgery may be required to adequately treat an ankle sprain. Surgery often involves repairing the damaged ligament or ligaments. Dr. DeMill will discuss the surgical procedure best suited for your case based on the type and severity of your injury as well as your activity level.
After surgery, rehabilitation is extremely important. Completing your rehabilitation program is crucial to a successful outcome. Be sure to continue to see Dr DeMill during this period to ensure that your ankle heals properly and function is restored.
Where Can I Learn More?
There is a lot of information online about medical diseases, injuries and treatments. As you cannot always believe what you read, I have selected a couple of reputable website that can give you more information about your diagnosis and treatment options. Additional information can be found on The American Foot & Ankle Society website and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website.
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