Ankle sprains are common injuries for sports stars and dancers, but they can affect anyone. Sprains refer to a traumatic twist of one of the ligaments within your ankle. If you suspect that you're suffering an ankle sprain, you might consider seeking medical intervention right away. Understanding the treatment options for this injury can help you know what to expect in your process of finding medical help.
What Is an Ankle Sprain?
Ankle sprain by InjuryMap is licensed with CC BY 2.0
Ankle sprains occur when you twist or roll your ankle although it can be any direction, typically the foot rolls inward. Ligaments are connective tissue that attaches bone to bone within your body. The most common type of ankle sprain occurs when you twist, roll, or otherwise unnaturally move and damage the outer ligaments of your ankle. You can identify your ankle sprain by seeking medical counsel and considering your symptoms. Medical professionals classify ankle sprains by assigning them to one of the following categories:
These sprains are the mildest in severity. You may experience this type of sprain when there is minimal stretching of your ligaments. This type of sprain can cause symptoms such as mild pain, tenderness of the affected area, and swelling. Usually, grade one sprains don't cause bruising and don't have an effect on the joint's stability. If you suffer from a grade one sprain, you can expect to recover within one to three weeks.
Grade two sprains occur when you experience a partial tear in one of your ankle ligaments. This severity of ankle sprain can cause symptoms such as bruising, moderate pain, swelling, and tenderness. Unlike grade one sprains, individuals who suffer from this type may have difficulty bearing weight on their affected ankle and experience challenges in mobility. Grade two sprains can also impact the ankle's range of motion and cause mild-to-moderate joint instability. With proper treatment, those who sustain this type of injury can expect to recover within three to six weeks.
This type of sprain is the most severe. Medical professionals classify it as the full tear or rupture of an ankle ligament. Those who have grade three sprains experience severe pain, swelling, and bruising. They may not be able to walk or bear weight on their injured ankle. Grade three ankle sprains cause considerable joint instability and affect the patient's range of motion. As these sprains are the most severe, they require the longest recovery period, typically lasting up to several months.
Ankle Sprain Diagnosis
You need a medical professional, preferably a podiatrist within your insurance network, to officially diagnose your sprained ankle. To receive this diagnosis, make an appointment with the doctors at Gurnee Podiatry and Sports Medicine assoc. At this appointment, your doctor can examine your ankle, foot, and leg to determine how much damage the sprain caused. They also test your range of motion and tenderness in certain areas. For all sprains, the doctor may order an X-ray or ultrasound to ensure you aren't experiencing a fracture and to examine the condition of your ankle ligaments.
Ankle Sprain Treatments
The treatment you receive for your ankle sprain can depend on the grade of sprain you sustain. The treatment goals for sprained ankles are to:
- Reduce swelling, pain, and bruising.
- Enable healing of the ligament.
- Restore mobility and function.
Though your treatment plan may vary depending on your personal goals, your lifestyle, and the grade of your sprain, you can typically expect the following treatments for your injury:
R.I.C.E. is an acronym that describes a self-care treatment for your sprain. This is the treatment plan you can expect to follow for the first few days after experiencing your injury. R.I.C.E. stands for:
- Rest: It's important to give your ankle time to heal by refraining from any activities that may cause discomfort. Resting in bed or in sedentary positions can help encourage your body to relax and begin its healing process.
- Ice: Use an ice pack or ice bath to surround your injured ankle immediately after you sustain the injury. As you heal, it's helpful to do this every two to three hours to reduce swelling and pain.
- Compress: Compress your ankle by wrapping it with an elastic bandage. This can help you reduce swelling, but be sure not to wrap it so tightly that it hinders your circulation. Often with spains that cause gait changes or that are severe, the doctor may put you in a walking boot.
- Elevate: While resting and sleeping, elevate your ankle above the level of your heart. Doing this can help drain any excess fluid around your wound, consequentially reducing swelling.
Medication and Supplies
Most individuals who suffer from sprains don't receive any prescriptions to help with treatment. You may take over-the-counter pain medication to relieve discomfort. To treat your sprain, you may need other medical supplies as well. This includes bandages to compress and stabilize the injury. You can also use sports tape and/or an ankle brace. If you can't bear weight on your ankle, you might use crutches to help increase your mobility along with the boot or cast.
Athletes and those who experience severe sprains may need physical therapy once their ankles are further into the healing process. This can help regain mobility and reduce the chances of re-injury due to inadequate healing. Physical therapy is especially helpful to athletes, who may be more susceptible to sprains than other individuals.
When To Visit a Doctor for Your Sprain
Some sprains don't require medical invention. Consider the R.I.C.E. treatment method for the first few days following your injury. If your symptoms persist and you're still experiencing pain, it's important to visit a doctor. Those who want an official diagnosis also need the counsel of a medical professional, as doctors can identify the grade of your sprain and recommend advanced treatment options. In some extreme cases, your ankle may require surgery if it doesn't heal properly from the regular treatment plan for ankle sprains.
If you believe you've experienced an ankle sprain and your symptoms aren't improving, contact us to schedule an appointment. You can also call or visit us at one of our two locations within our business hours.