An ankle sprain occurs when you roll, twist, or awkwardly turn your ankle, causing the ligaments to stretch or tear. It is a common musculoskeletal injury in people of all ages and may affect anyone regardless of activity level; all it takes is a simple misstep, and you have a sprained ankle. When one or more ligaments stretch or tear, you may experience pain, swelling, and difficulty walking. Although many people tough out ankle injuries and do not seek medical help, it is always important to see a clinician, especially if the injury causes more than slight pain and swelling. Without Scottsdale AZ comprehensive musculoskeletal care, a severely injured ankle may not heal well, resulting in recurrent sprains and more downtime in the future.
When to seek medical attention
Unless your symptoms are mild and have improved soon after the injury, you must see your doctor if you suspect a sprain. Immediate care may be necessary if you have severe pain and swelling or the ankle feels numb and won’t bear weight. By examining your foot and manipulating it in various ways, your doctor can determine the severity of your injury. Your doctor may delay the examination for a few days until the pain and swelling subside. Before then, you want to continue with the RICE regimen.
Your doctor is less likely to use X-ray imaging since ligament problems don’t show up on regular X-rays. To screen for fracture, your healthcare provider uses certain rules to identify painful areas, tender, and cannot beat weight; these symptoms may suggest a fracture.
Treating a sprained ankle
The treatment appropriate for your sprained ankle depends on the extent of the injury. But generally, treatment aims to reduce pain, and swelling, encourage healing of the ligaments, and restore function. If you have a severe injury, your doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon or professional specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
If you sprain your ankle, you want to protect the ligaments from further damage and reduce pain and swelling. This means adopting the R.I.C.E approach for the first two or three days. First, you should rest the sprained ankle by avoiding or limiting activities that worsen your symptoms. Use an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours, or dip your foot and ankle in cold water to alleviate swelling. If you are using an ice pack, cover your ankle with a towel so you do not damage your skin. It is also important to talk to your doctor before applying ice, especially if you have decreased sensation, diabetes, or vascular disease.
Wrap your ankle with an elastic bandage to stop swelling but be sure not to wrap it too tight, as this can hinder circulation. Your primary care provider can help you wrap the bandage, starting at the end furthest from your heart. Elevating your ankle above the heart level helps reduce swelling by draining excess fluid. Elevating your legs at night is important so you don’t have severe swelling in the morning.
If you have symptoms of a sprained ankle, visit your provider at AZ Ortho for treatment to prevent recurrent injuries.