An elite athlete might get a sprained ankle if they let their muscular frame fall back down to earth at just the wrong angle. Unfortunately, even the least athletic among us are at risk of suffering this injury while we walk on an uneven surface. In a sense, the ankle is the great equalizer: If you have one, you can sprain it!
A sprain might follow when you roll, twist, or otherwise, move your ankle in a sudden and unnatural fashion. This causes the ligaments which keep the bones in your foot together to stretch or partially tear. Sprained ankle symptoms include pain, swelling, and bruising. They also include instability while walking, tenderness to the touch, and restricted range of movement. You may have perceived a “pop” in your ankle during the instant of the injury.
It is crucial to seek medical assessment following a very serious and painful ankle injury, as you will wish to make certain it is a sprain and nothing more severe. But once you have confirmed that the injury is indeed only an ankle sprain, you can take comfort knowing that treatment is relatively straightforward.
One of the most potent treatments for a soft tissue injury such as a sprained ankle is RICE. Not the food, mind you – the acronym.
RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation
The RICE method may be all you need to treat a sprained ankle. Simply do four things during the two or three days following the injury:
- Rest – Favor your ankle by avoiding strenuous physical activity. Gentle walking won’t necessarily impede the healing process, but sports and running would best be avoided.
- Ice – Not just useful for chilling drinks! Apply an ice pack to the affected area for up to 20 minutes every two to three hours while you are awake. You may switch to applying heat to the affected area if the swelling subsides after two or three days. However, take care to apply neither ice nor heat directly to the skin. (Consult your doctor if you have diabetes or another preexisting condition that affects your blood circulation.)
- Compression – Without constricting it so tightly that it impedes healthy circulation, wrap your ankle in an elastic bandage (such as one made by ACE). If you experience a numb or tingling feeling in your ankle – or even greater pain – loosen or remove the wrap altogether. (Consult with your doctor if you feel you need to use a wrap for longer than three days.)
- Elevation – Rest your sprained ankle on a pillow or a bolster, especially while you are asleep. Elevation is very effective at reducing swelling.
Compared to other injuries, a sprained ankle typically isn’t all that painful. It is rare for a doctor to prescribe painkillers for a sprained ankle, as gentler, over the counter medications are effective enough and their usage carries less risk.
Though often overlooked, aspirin can be highly effective at mitigating pain. It is a synthetic derivative of salicylic acid, a substance originally obtained from willow bark and used for pain management for at least 3,500 years. You may alternatively take ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen, all of which are available under various brand names.
Take care to consult your doctor before taking any medications. For example, pregnant women are advised to avoid taking ibuprofen, and several over the counter pills may adversely interact with various prescription medications.
Whether your doctor advises them or you believe they could help you avoid putting weight on your sprained ankle, crutches can prove immensely helpful during the healing process. Depending on the sprain’s severity, you may also wear a sport brace or walking boot while your ankle mends itself.
As the pain and the swelling in your ankle subside, your doctor may prescribe simple exercises which will help to restore your ankle’s original range of motion. These exercises may even strengthen your ankle beyond its original condition so as to improve your stability and prevent the likelihood of future injury.
Once you have experienced a sprained ankle, you are probably interested in avoiding the injury again. While physical activity always carries some risk of injury, you can avoid straining your ankle by stretching before exerting yourself and taking care not to overexert yourself. Other prevention options include wearing a brace and performing regular balancing exercises.
Selecting the correct footwear for walking or athletic activities is crucial to avoid a sprained ankle. Sneakers are suitable for nearly any pastime where you might break a sweat. As nice as they might look, high-heeled shoes do carry a marked risk of ankle injury. At the very least, leave the 5″ stilettos at home when you play basketball!
Have you suffered a sprained ankle recently, or would you like to decrease your chance of spraining your ankle again? Then we hope you will contact Twin Cities Foot & Ankle Clinic today! Dr. Sperling and Dr. Felton are always standing by to help you get you back on your feet.