An ankle sprain is one of the most common injuries, affecting people of all ages. Not only do sprains occur while playing sports, but this common ankle injury can also happen while walking, running, or just moving around home or work. As a matter of fact, an estimated 25,000 people sprain their ankle each day. Although common, most people do not fully understand the causes of sprains and what to do if they experience this injury. With this guide, you will become more familiar with the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for a sprained ankle.
In most cases, a sprain of the ankle happens when you move your planted foot suddenly. This causes the foot to move inward while the ankle rolls outward. The movement twists the ligaments of the ankle excessively, causing them to stretch and even tear, resulting in a sprain.
Sprains range in severity, from a grade-1 sprain, which stretches the ligaments, to a more severe, grade-3 sprain, which tears the ligaments of the ankle.
The symptoms you may experience depend on the grade of your ankle sprain.
With a grade-1 sprain, you will experience some pain, light swelling, stiffness, and difficulty walking, running, and even balancing.
A grade-2 sprain may cause slight tears in the ligaments, resulting in more pain, swelling, and stiffness compared to a grade-1 sprain. However, a grade-3, which completely tears the ligaments in the ankle, will be the most painful.
If you have a grade 3 sprain, the pain can be so severe, it may begin spreading up the leg, causing intense throbbing. Swelling will also be severe. Your ankle may appear deformed due to the redness and swelling. You will not be able to walk or place any pressure on your ankle. In addition, touching a grade-3 ankle sprain with your hand can be incredibly painful.
No matter what grade of sprain you have, you should consult a doctor immediately after the injury. Your doctor will examine the ankle and ask you how the injury occurred. This will help the doctor understand exactly how your ankle was injured and which ligaments were affected. X-rays may also be ordered to ensure there are no broken or fractured bones, since the sprain may not be the only part of the foot affected.
Most doctors will recommend R.I.C.E therapy to treat ankle sprains first. This course of treatment involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You should rest your ankle first and foremost. Avoid walking or placing pressure on the ankle. Placing an ice pack on the sprained ankle is also helpful. Not only will the ice numb your pain, but it will reduce swelling. Wrap an ice pack in a thin cloth and place it on the ankle for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
Your doctor will wrap the sprained ankle in a compression bandage that should be worn for a few days. This bandage compresses the ankle to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Lastly, make sure to elevate your injured ankle throughout the day. Prop the ankle on a few pillows while resting during the day. Make sure the ankle is slightly higher than your heart for the most effective blood flow. Elevating the ankle will increase blood circulation, which reduces swelling and promotes faster healing.
In some instances, a severe tear of the ankle ligaments may require surgical repair. Arthroscopic surgery, which uses a small camera inserted into an incision in the ankle, can remove any bone fragments or damaged cartilage while repairing tears in the ligaments. Arthroscopic surgery is slightly invasive, but it is an effective surgery for restoring a severely injured ankle back to health.
Spraining an ankle is not a pleasant experience, but proper understanding can be helpful for fast diagnosis and treatment. This guide and your doctor's assistance will help you recover from an ankle sprain. Contact a specialist who offers sports injury physical therapy for additional advice.