Many people take their ankles completely for granted. They twist and sprain their joint, then continue to perform their normal activities, even though they haven’t properly treated the injury. There’s a misconception that ankle sprains aren’t really serious. The problem with failing to treat a sprained ankle, though, is that the joint never really heals, becoming chronically weak and uncomfortable. This is a problem we see repeatedly at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic.
What really happens to your ankle when you sprain it?
A sprain is an injury to the supporting ligaments that hold your ankle together. Your ankle is made up of multiple bones that sit on top of each other. Ligaments are bands of slightly stretchy connective tissue that hold bones together, making it possible for the joint to support your weight and still move smoothly. To be effective at keeping the ankle together, however, these connectors can’t stretch very far. Stretching them past that normal range damages the tissue.
Unfortunately, this is easy to do. Any sudden twist from a trip, fall, or just setting your foot down awkwardly can be enough to overstretch, or even tear, your ligaments. Most people significantly underestimate the seriousness of this. The abnormally loosened connectors not only hurt, but can’t support you effectively, either. It takes time and care for ligaments to heal, too. If they don’t recover properly, they can stay too loose, leaving you chronically unstable.
How do I know how severe my ankle sprain is?
Ankle sprains can range from mild to quite severe. Determining the extent of your sprain is important for getting the most effective treatment for your joint.
Typically your injury falls into one of three categories:
Mild – This is a basic sprain. The ligaments are overstretched and your ankle experiences some swelling, stiffness, and inflammation. You can usually still put weight on the affected foot.
Moderate – This is a more serious injury. Your ligaments are seriously overstretched and partially torn in some areas. You have more swelling, tenderness, stiffness, and instability. You may or may not be able to put weight on your foot.
Severe – This is a significant injury that takes a long time to heal. One or more of your ligaments has torn completely. Your ankle is very swollen and unstable. You might have bruising. You probably won’t be able to put weight on your foot without your ankle giving out painfully.
How can I tell if I have a fracture or a sprain?
The short answer is that you probably can’t. Unless the ankle is displaced, a sever ankle sprain and an ankle fracture look almost exactly the same. They also feel very similar. Many people believe that if you can walk on it it is not broken . That is definitely not true. Is this picture of fracture or sprain? The only way to tell is with an x-ray.
How do I treat an ankle sprain?
Treating ankle sprains right away is the key to preventing the problem from becoming chronically uncomfortable and weak later. Dr. Darren Silvester and our team at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic will evaluate your joint to determine how severe the damage is. We’ll also check for complications like ankle fractures. Then we can help you begin proper treatment.
RICE therapy—rest, ice, compress, and elevate—is good first aid for ankle conditions. Stop all activities and avoid putting weight on the affected ankle. Ice the joint and wrap it in a compression bandage to minimize swelling. Prop your ankle up on pillows whenever you can. However, this self-care is not sufficient to heal moderate to severe sprains, particularly if the pain is enough that you struggle to apply weight to your ankle.
Serious sprains need a few weeks in a cast to immobilize your foot. Afterwards, you’ll need to wear a stiff brace for 6-8 weeks to allow you to be somewhat active while still protecting your joint. As the ligaments heal, you’ll be able to transition to a wearing a brace just when participating in activities that could stress your joint. The gradual recovery gives your ligaments time to heal conservatively and return to their normal flexibility and strength.
At our office, we see far too many people dealing with chronic ankle problems because they did not get adequate sprain treatment. You don’t have to be one of them!
Why consider Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic for an Ankle Sprain?
QUICK ACCESS TO CARE: As with any injury time is a factor. The sooner it is addressed and treated, whether surgically or conservatively , the better. We make a commitment to our trauma patient is to try and get them in on the same day as the call. In reviewing our patient list patients who require surgery generally have that surgery within the 1st week. This makes for easy reduction of fractures, less pain and swelling and more rapid return to activities.
DYNAMIC TESTING: The only way to truly evaluate whether not a fracture is stable is to place this fracture under stress. We are very skilled and using local anesthetic to make the ankle numb and we have access to fluoroscopy to do dynamic stress testing.
LASER THERAPY: Postoperatively laser therapy can cut healing time by about 40%. We have made the significant investment to have the MLS laser therapy available in our office. https://celasers.com/medical/mls-laser-therapy/
YOU SEE A DOCTOR, NOT A PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT OR NURSE PRACTITIONER. On your 1st visit you will see the doctor. He will follow you through the entire procedure both before and after. You are not “handed off” to someone else. Out without
EXPERTS AT THE REST OF THE PROBLEMS: Ankle fractures are associated with a lot of other injuries including nerve entrapment, nerve injury, tendon injury, ankle instability, bone bruises inside the ankle. We see and care for these every day in our practice.
HOLISTIC APPROACH: We are firm believers in taking care of the whole patient. Routinely with fractures and bone surgery we offer our patients a nutritional supplement that has been shown to dramatically increase bone healing.