"I fell down playing basketball" or "I was running and fell of the curb." "Now my ankle is swollen, red and bruising. What should I do?" Simple answer: "Get an x-ray!" Ankle sprains occur very commonly in athletic people, or those wearing inappropriate shoe gear or walking or running on uneven surfaces. Most people ignore the symptoms of an ankle sprain unless it is severe. This is unfortunate because ankle sprains can lead to chronic instability, arthritis and disability when treated improperly.
What causes an ankle sprain? These often occur from a fall, sudden twist or blow that forces the ankle at an abnormal angle. If the bone doesn’t break, the ligaments either stretch or tear causing an ankle sprain. The severity and long-term outcomes from an ankle sprain depend on whether the ligaments stretched, partially tore or are completely torn. There are also three ligaments that can be involved, so the number of ligaments affected also mediates outcomes.
The symptoms of an ankle sprain are relatively straight-forward: pain, swelling, bruising, difficulty walking, and stiffness in the joint. This can be just slightly annoying or so severe you have trouble putting your foot on the ground.
Treatment for ankle sprains include: R-I-C-E therapy (see acute inflammation section). You should start this treatment immediately then call your foot and ankle surgeon for an appointment. Often, a fracture of the ankle or foot can be involved and long-term outcomes hinge on proper treatment.
Why do I need a doctor to treat my ankle sprain?
- Untreated ankle sprains lead to life-long instability, weakness, and pain.
- Severe injuries including fractures and cartilage injuries can be subtle and overlooked; this can lead to long-term arthritis.
- Rehabilitation of an ankle sprain needs to start promptly to facilitate good outcomes. A delay in treatment can lead to a need for surgery that could have been avoided.
- The best way to evaluate an ankle sprain is a physical exam, coupled with x-ray and often an MRI to evaluate the ligaments. A simple ER visit cannot perform a thorough exam.
Treatment for your ankle sprain usually includes immobilization in a brace, walking cast or below knee non-weight bearing cast is severe cases. This is coupled with anti-inflammatories and early physical therapy. Severe cases may require prompt surgical reconstruction and even arthroscopy to clean up cartilage damage.
Proper diagnosis of the severity of the injury and timely rehabilitation are the keys to successful outcomes in an ankle sprain. Call or contact the office today if you have the symptoms of an ankle sprain.