Ankle sprains are the most common serious foot and ankle injuries. It seems like almost every serious youth athlete or active adult has had at least one.
They are also never to be underestimated—although unfortunately, they often are. Sprains that aren’t treated properly or don’t heal correctly can leave the ankle weak, wobbly, and highly likely to sprain again.
What Is an Ankle Sprain?
In general terms, a sprain is a stretching or tearing of a ligament—one of the soft, fibrous connective tissues that connect two or more bones together at a joint. There are several ligaments surrounding your ankle joint, and any or all of them can be damaged due to a sudden twisting or hyperextension.
Common symptoms include pain, tenderness, swelling, and reduced range of motion. More serious sprains may cause bruising or significant “wobbliness” or instability in the ankle joint.
Ankle sprains are categorized as grade 1, 2, or 3 depending on severity:
- Grade 1: The ankles are overstretched, with microscopic tearing of ligament fibers. Mild pain and swelling.
- Grade 2: The ligaments are partially torn, with more moderate to severe pain and swelling. The ankle can feel unstable or loose when moved in certain positions.
- Grade 3: Complete tear of one or more ligaments. Severe pain and substantial instability within the joint.
What Should I Do About My Ankle Sprain?
Right After the Injury
First, stop what you’re doing. Get off your feet. Don’t bear weight on the injury, as this can tear the ligament further.
Practice RICE therapy, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You’ve already started “rest” by getting off your feet. You can next begin icing your ankle, wrapping or bracing it (compression), and propping it up as much as possible (elevation) to help with circulation and swelling.
Give us a call as soon as possible so we can get you in, examine your ankle, and determine what extra steps may be necessary to ensure your ankle heals properly.
Don’t skip this step! Although it’s possible that a mild sprain may only require home care, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As we said, insufficient treatment can have lasting consequences for your long-term health and quality of life.
Ankle sprains often need to be protected, or sometimes even fully immobilized, during the healing process. On the low end, this might require sports tape or a brace. More serious sprains may require a walking boot or short leg cast, along with crutches to help you get around.
The most serious ankle sprains may require surgical repair. Of course, our goal is always to avoid this step if possible and bring healing using only conservative methods. We won’t recommend surgery unless we think it’s absolutely necessary, and the best option for preserving your long-term health.
Returning to Full Health
Regardless of how serious the sprain is, proper physical therapy and rehab exercises are critically important. The muscles, ligaments, and tendons supporting the ankle will weaken during your recuperation. You will need to rebuild strength in order to regain full mobility and reduce the risk of re-injury.
We will ensure that you have detailed guidelines about how and when to get working on your rehab. The goal is to minimize recovery time and allow full return as easily as possible, but without jeopardizing the healing that needs to take place first.
If you’ve recently sprained your ankle and you haven’t sought professional help yet, please don’t wait another minute. Call Dr. Bruce Scudday today at one of our convenient El Paso locations to schedule an appointment:
- Curie Drive: (915) 533-5151
- George Dieter Drive: (915) 856-3331