Arizona Orthopedic Surgery Solutions for Ankle Sprain
What is Ankle Sprain
An ankle sprain occurs when the strong ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. Ankle sprains are common injuries that occur among people of all ages. They range from mild to severe, depending upon how much damage there is to the ligaments.
Most sprains are minor injuries that heal with home treatments like rest and applying ice. However, if your ankle is very swollen and painful to walk on — or if you are having trouble putting weight on your ankle at all, be sure to see your doctor.
Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, a more severe sprain can weaken your ankle—making it more likely that you will injure it again. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to long-term problems, including chronic ankle pain, arthritis, and ongoing instability.
Ligaments are strong, fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones. The ligaments in the ankle help to keep the bones in proper position and stabilize the joint.
Most sprained ankles occur in the lateral ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Sprains can range from tiny tears in the fibers that make up the ligament to complete tears through the tissue.
If there is a complete tear of the ligaments, the ankle may become unstable after the initial injury phase passes. Over time, this instability can result in damage to the bones and cartilage of the ankle joint.
Ankle Sprain Diagnosis
If the foot turned upward, where the toes were pointing towards the sky, upon injury, your ankle most likely turned in, causing an inversion ankle sprain. Wearing improper footwear for a sport, activity, or task, paired with higher exertion upon the ligaments, can cause ankle sprains. High impact sports put an individual at an increased risk as well. Inflammation, bruising, shots, and throbs of pain, increased pain when bearing weight, walking, or specific foot positions, redness, and warmth, weakness in the joint, and overall difficulty walking are all signs of an ankle sprain. If five to seven days of rest, elevation, applied ice for twenty minutes at a time, compression, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories fail to relieve your pain, you should call your doctor. If pain, swelling, and bruising fail to subside after five to seven days, paired with the inability to walk, you may have suffered a fracture. Your doctor will manipulate the foot and ankle to locate the pain and confirm you did not fracture a bone or sever a nerve or artery. Additionally, your doctor will check to make sure the Achilles tendon wasn’t torn during the injury. An x-ray will be used to make sure a fracture wasn’t sustained during the injury, while an MRI will reveal ligaments, cartilage, and bone chips to the doctor. A CT scan may be necessary to create a detailed image of your bone, while an ultrasound is used to analyze your ankle ligaments while in motion.
Ankle Sprain Treatment
Always implement RICE immediately after an ankle injury. Rest by taking all the weight off the ankle via crutches. Apply ice to the injured ankle for twenty minutes at a time once every hour for the first forty-eight hours. Compression will work alongside the ice to reduce inflammation. Use an elastic bandage or wrap and begin at the point furthest from your heart to prevent cutting off blood circulation. Elevation will help drain the injury of excess fluids. It’s important to keep the ankle higher than your heart to reduce swelling successfully. It would be wise to spend the next five to seven days in a reclining chair with a bag of ice, a bottle of water, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. If the symptoms haven’t shown improvement in one week, contact your doctor. It will be important they confirm you didn’t suffer a tear or fracture. Likewise, they will provide a brace or cast and crutches to immobilize and rest the ankle, assisting the healing process. A follow-up appointment a week or two later will confirm the healing is coming along nicely, and the doctor will be able to determine the level of physical therapy needed to make a full recovery.