How to Treat and Heal An Ankle Sprain
A sprained ankle occurs when you twist or roll your ankle awkwardly. This injury causes the ligaments which hold the ankle bones together to stretch or even tear. This may lead to ankle pain, swelling, or even instability.
Ankle sprains should not be underestimated. Its treatment depends on its severity. In mild cases, self-care with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) may be all that you need. However, in more severe cases, persistent pain and instability should be formally addressed by an orthopaedic surgeon.
- Ankle pain
- Ankle instability or recurrent (repeated) sprains
- Ankle weakness
- Difficulty walking on uneven ground
Symptoms may vary from person to person.
How to identify a sprained ankle
A sprained ankle may not stop you from walking, but it will impair your regular physical activities. These signs are characteristic of a sprained ankle.
- A pronounced limp- general tiredness may cause some changes in gait, but it is pretty different from a limp. A limp typically affects one foot, and your steps are shorter when you apply pressure to the affected foot.
- Localized pain- even while the foot is not in use, you may experience throbbing pain around the area.
- Bruising and swelling- depending on the severity of the tendon tear, your ankle may appear redding or pinkish and swollen or puffy.
How to get fast ankle sprain treatment
Learning to prevent an ankle sprain before you even get on the pitch is a wiser and healthier choice, but even with adequate preparation, you may trip over your own toe. Since ankle sprains are quite common, many athletes ignore them until it leads to a more secondary severe condition such as knee pain or Plantar fasciitis.
Ankle sprain treatment needs to begin at the spot to discourage further tearing and secondary injuries.
What should I do immediately after an ankle sprain while waiting for my appointment and treatment?
Timely self-care with rest, icing, compression, and elevation are important to manage the initial pain and swelling around the ankle. Anti-inflammatory medication will further reduce the pain and swelling that you may be experiencing.
The aim of first aid treatment is to address the most apparent symptoms first while the ankle heals itself. The approach taken to alleviating pain and discomfort associated with a sprain has been tagged R.I.C.E;
Immediately you notice a limp, avoid placing more weight on that ankle. If you have on multiple layers of footwear, socks, tight-fitting shoes, or boots, gently take them off and assess the degree of damage to the ankle.
Applying an ice pack to the spot for 10 to 15-minute intervals will reduce pain and inflammation around the area. However, if you have diabetes or any cardiovascular or nerve disease, consult your doctor before applying an ice pack.
Wrapping your foot with a bandage will keep most of the swelling away and distribute the pressure evenly around your foot. With an adequately sealed dressing, you may be able to resume walking. An expert wrapping technique is to begin wrapping the bandage from the base of the toes, locking the wrap firmly before it reaches the tender area. This technique is safer and healthier because it does not resist blood flow to the foot. Starting your wrap from the ankle may cut off blood supply to your toes.
While compression works best during the day when you need to keep moving, elevation works best at night. Keep your ankle elevated over your heart. This setup facilitates the drainage of the fluid accumulating in the ankle. Alternating episodes of compression and elevation are healthier and more comfortable than wearing a bandage all day.
Over-the-counter medications are efficient in the treatment of ankle pain. Consider topical options as well as systemic ones. Your medical adviser or pharmacist may recommend any of the following; Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, Diclofenac, or Naproxen.
If you are hypertensive or have had a history of ulcers, topical alternatives are the better choice.
If pain relievers and first aid aren't enough to restore full ankle function, you may need to visit your doctor for a formal assessment. After clinically examining your ankle, an X-ray or MRI scan may be organized to assess the extent of your injury.
The X-ray excludes any fracture, while the MRI scan analyses the integrity of your ankle ligaments.
You may require an ankle brace, a crutch, or even surgery based on the extent of your injuries.
Can I prevent an ankle sprain?
The ankle is a weight-bearing joint. Minor injuries which are neglected can escalate into more serious problems. Timely and appropriate treatment is crucial to treat these injuries and get you back to your active lifestyle.
- Warm-up before exercise or sports
- Avoid sports in which you are not trained or conditioned
- Wear shoes that fit well and are appropriate for your activity
- Use an ankle brace or guard for a previously weak ankle
- Maintain good muscle strength and conditioning
- Be aware when exercising on uneven ground
Ankle Sprains Recovery Times Based on Severity
The apparent severity of an ankle sprain depends on its sufferer's pain tolerance range. However, judging by the presence and degree symptoms, we may classify knee sprains into grades, as such;
Grade 1 (Mild Sprain)
Symptoms: ankle discomfort, mild pain, and tenderness. No bruising, inflammation, or swelling. It is likely caused by an ankle ligament that was bent or stretched in an uncomfortable position but not torn. There is minimal loss of ankle function; walking is stable but uncomfortable. Total ankle function may be restored after 1-3 weeks of home treatment.
Grade 2 (Moderate Sprain)
Symptoms: ankle discomfort, moderate pain, bruising, or swelling are present. It may be caused by a partial tear where a ligament was stretched beyond its limits. Walking is difficult but possible. It is characterised by persistent throbbing pain and a pronounced limp. Total ankle function may be restored after a series of compression and elevation. Proper healing may take 3 to 6 weeks.
Grade 3 (Severe Sprain)
Symptoms: it is characterized by severe ankle pain, inability to walk or bear weights, bruises, swelling, and inflammation. It occurs when a ligament is completely torn or ruptured. It may take several months to heal and requires medical devices such as an ankle guard to distribute weight or a crutch to displace the weight intended for the ankle.
How are ankle sprains treated?
The treatment for ankle sprains will depend on the severity and the cause of the injury. Your orthopaedic surgeon will conduct a thorough assessment of your injury to determine the proper treatment. If there is bruising or swelling around the ankle, gentle palpitations will be performed to assess for pain. Your ankle will also be moved to detect any stiffness or instability. During the assessment, both your ankles will be compared for completeness.
X-rays may be arranged in serious cases to exclude any possible fractures, and MRI scans may be required for recurrent (repeated) ankle sprains with severe pain and swelling to look for partial or complete tears of your ankle ligaments. Treatment for ankle sprains may be performed in phases, according to the degree of the injury.
After the initial ankle sprain, there is significant pain and swelling as the ankle ligaments are traumatized. Ankle compression and icing are crucial to prevent further swelling and worsening of the injury. Bracing provides additional support to the ankle where it is vulnerable and prevents recurrent ankle sprains. All these measures must be instituted timely to allow the ankle to heal and recover faster.
As the swelling around the ankle improves, physiotherapy and rehabilitation are required to restore the strength, flexibility, and stability of the muscles and ligaments around the ankle. Our trained physiotherapists will institute a rehabilitation program that is characterized by customized and progressive training for you.
Muscles that have weakened as a result of the injury will be strengthened through exercise, stretching, and training. Stability and proprioception of your ankle will be restored using balancing exercises and specialized equipment. This will help you navigate uneven ground and stair climbing after your rehabilitation. These training exercises are crucial in preventing further injuries in the future.
In severe ankle sprains, one or more ligaments that hold the ankle joint together may be partially or completely torn. Despite initial treatment with compression, icing, and physiotherapy, patients may still experience pain, instability, and loss of function.
In these instances, surgery may be the appropriate treatment to repair or reconstruct the torn ligaments and restore the stability of your ankle. A stable ankle will accelerate your recovery process as it helps prevent recurrent ankle injury and swelling. It allows you to embark on your rehabilitation with confidence and assurance.
How long will it take for my ankle to recover?
An ankle sprain or strain can take up to 1 to 3 months to recover. This depends on the severity of the initial injury and the type of treatment you receive. An ankle fracture may also take even up to 2 to 3 months to recover depending on whether it was treated in a cast or operated on. A timely assessment by an orthopaedic surgeon helps to initiate treatment sooner and get you on your way to recovery.
Treatment for ankle sprains at Orion Orthopaedic is designed to accelerate your recovery with holistic and patient-centered care. Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr Mizan will work with you to ensure you return to your daily activities and favorite sports safely and timely.
Surgery for ankle sprains is uncommon. They are however necessary if your ankle injury does not recover as expected. If you continue to have persistent and significant pain when you walk or instability when you walk on uneven ground, it means that your ligaments have failed to stabilize your ankle.
Surgical treatment involves repairing, reattaching, or reconstructing your torn ankle ligaments. These procedures may be performed through a key-hole technique to restore the stability and function of your ankle. Surgeries take about two hours and your ankle will be protected in either a cast or air cast boot for about 4 to 6 weeks to allow the repair to heal.
Physiotherapy after surgery is crucial to facilitate a timely return to function and restore your quality of life.
Ankle sprains are one of the most common sports injuries. They vary in severity from mild to moderate to severe. The immediate response for all kinds of sprains should be to take the weight off the foot and alleviate the most prominent symptoms, following the R.I.C.E pattern. If this proves ineffective after a few days, consult an orthopaedic doctor. Quick regaining of the normal range of motion and joint stability is better observed with the help of medical devices and carefully monitored exercise.
Is it alright to walk around with a sprained ankle?
This depends on the severity of the sprain and the treatment rendered for the injury. Your doctor may advise you to only put minimal weight on your ankle while it is still recovering from the injury. Excessive walking may lead to more pain and swelling if the injury is stressed too early on.
How do I know if my ankle sprain is serious?
The nature of the initial accident or injury will provide a good idea about how fast it may recover. A serious injury is characterized by severe pain, swelling, and recurrent sprains despite efforts to support and treat it. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Does my insurance policy cover ankle injuries?
Ankle sprains and injuries are insurance claimable. It constitutes an injury and may be claimed from either your personal or corporate insurance policies. We do advise our patients to check with their personal or corporate insurance plans and representatives. We are also able to help them with this if required.