What Is an Ankle Sprain?
In the ankle joint, the lower leg and foot bones (tibia, fibula, and talus) are held in place by multiple strong ligaments. A sprain occurs when one of these ligaments is overstretched or torn. The most common cause of this type of injury is a fall that forcefully bends the outer side of the ankle joint toward the ground.
A minor ankle sprain may heal with a few days of self-care. However, if the injured ankle is very swollen, bruised, stiff, painful to walk on, or cannot support any body weight, it is important to seek professional medical attention. A physician can evaluate the severity of the injury, determine if a fracture is present, and suggest an appropriate treatment plan to promote healing and help prevent complications, such as chronic ankle pain, arthritis, and ankle instability.
How Is an Ankle Sprain Treated?
The foundation of ankle pain treatment is “PRICE” therapy, which involves:
- Protection – Crutches and/or a brace can be used to help keep weight off the injured ankle and protect the ligaments.
- Rest – Initially, it is important to minimize ankle movement, which can impede healing.
- Ice applications – To alleviate swelling and numb pain, an ice pack can be applied to the painful ankle three to five times a day for 20 minutes at a time.
- Compression – The injured ankle can be wrapped in an elastic bandage, which can provide support and reduce swelling.
- Elevation – When possible, it can be helpful to raise the ankle above heart level to allow fluid to drain away from the damaged tissue.
If necessary, an over-the-counter pain reliever or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) can be taken to help relieve painful swelling. After the pain subsides, gentle exercises such as slowly rotating the ankle and manually flexing it upward and downward can help restore range of motion.
A more severe ankle sprain may require further treatment. For instance, a cast or boot may be worn for a few weeks to limit ankle movement, protect the injury, and help keep the damaged ligament in place as it heals. To facilitate a gradual return to regular activities, a physician or physical therapist can suggest a rehabilitation program to help restore ankle strength, flexibility, and range of motion. To address an ankle sprain that does not improve with conservative treatment, a surgical repair may be considered.
An Orthopedic Specialist in Lafayette
If you’ve sprained your ankle, you are welcome to consult with Peter D. Vizzi, M.D., a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who practices in Lafayette, LA. Dr. Vizzi can provide a prompt diagnosis and suggest appropriate treatment for your injury. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.