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Ankle Sprains

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from Web-MD

What is an ankle sprain?

Most people have twisted an ankle at some point in their life. But if your ankle gets swollen and painful after you twist it, you have most likely sprained it. This means you have stretched and possibly torn the ligaments in your ankle. See a picture of an ankle sprain.

Even though ankle sprains are common, they are not always minor injuries. Some people with repeated or severe sprains can develop long-term joint pain and weakness. Treating a sprained ankle can help prevent ongoing ankle problems.

What causes ankle sprains?

Most ankle sprains happen when you make a rapid shifting movement with your foot planted, such as when you play soccer or get tackled in football. Often the ankle rolls outward and the foot turns inward. This causes the ligaments on the outside of the ankle to stretch and tear. Less often, the ankle rolls inward and the foot turns outward. This damages the ligaments on the inside of the ankle. See a picture of the different types of ankle sprains.

An ankle sprain can range from mild to severe, depending on how badly the ligament is damaged and how many ligaments are injured. With a mild sprain, the ankle may be tender, swollen, and stiff. But it usually feels stable, and you can walk with little pain. A more serious sprain might include bruising and tenderness around the ankle, and walking is painful. In a severe ankle sprain, the ankle is unstable and may feel “wobbly.” You can’t walk, because the ankle gives out and may be very painful.

What are the symptoms?

With most sprains, you feel pain right away at the site of the tear. Often the ankle starts to swell immediately and may bruise. The ankle area is usually tender to touch, and it hurts to move it.

In more severe sprains, you may hear and/or feel something tear, along with a pop or snap. You will probably have extreme pain at first and will not be able to walk or even put weight on your foot. Usually, the more pain and swelling you have, the more severe your ankle sprain is and the longer it will take to heal.

How is an ankle sprain diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you how the injury occurred and if you have hurt your ankle before. He or she will check your foot and ankle, your lower leg, and even your knee to see if you are hurt anywhere else.

If the sprain is mild, your doctor may not order X-rays. But with more severe sprains, you may need X-rays to rule out a broken bone in the ankle or the foot. It is possible to break a bone in your foot or ankle at the same time as a sprain.

How is an ankle sprain treated?

Once your ankle sprain is diagnosed, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan depending on the severity of the injury. The basic goal is to reduce the swelling and pain, which in turn promotes healing and restores the functionality of your ankle. Several treatment options are available:

Home Treatments – Home treatments can decrease the pain and swelling in the region in order to protect the ligaments from experiencing further damage.

Your doctor may recommend RICE, one of the best home treatments for a sprained ankle:

  • Rest avoids stress on the inflamed tissue.
  • Ice reduces pain and swelling.
  • Compression keeps down the swelling.
  • Elevation helps the body absorb extra fluid and reduce swelling.

Using a heat pack increases the blood flow to the injured ankle, reduces pain and tension, and aids in speeding up the healing process. It is vital to note that heat packs must not be used while the ankle is swollen.

Stretching helps in blood circulation and keeps the muscles flexible and strong. Flexing and rolling the sprained ankle improves blood circulation to the injured area and speeds up the healing process.

Medication – If the sprain is not severe, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medication to help relieve the pain.

Medical Treatment or Devices – Depending on the severity of the sprain, your doctor may recommend the use of medical devices such as crutches, ankle support braces, elastic bandages, or sports tape to stabilize the injured ankle. If the sprain is severe, you may need a walking boot or a cast that will immobilize the ankle and allow the tendons to heal properly.

Surgery – Surgery to treat a sprained ankle is very rare and is performed only if the injury does not heal in the expected time. Typically, surgery is recommended if the injured ankle remains unstable and weak even after rehabilitative exercises.

Any medical or health advice provided will be approved by a medically-trained and qualified professional unless a clear statement otherwise. The information provided on this site is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between patient and physician. Consult with your physician regarding a proper treatment plan for you.

The team at My Foot Clinic are highly trained and widely recognized as the best podiatrist in and around Reseda, Canoga Park, West Hills, Northridge, Chatsworth, Tarzana, Encino, Van Nuys, Artesia, Cerritos, and Norwalk.