Anyone who has injured their can tell you it’s seriously painful. These injuries usually occur from an accidental twist of the ankle that stretches or tears the ligaments holding the bones and joints together. The ligaments are pushed past their specific range of motion that stabilizes the joint, resulting in a sprain. Although it may sound like a minor injury, as most body sprains are minor and heal with home treatments like rest and icing, you should go to the emergency room or make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible after sustaining an ankle sprain, especially if the ankle is swollen and you can’t walk as easily.
Signs of a sprained ankle include:
- Limited mobility of the ankle
- Inability to put weight on the affected leg
- Ankle swelling and tenderness
- Skin discoloration
Your doctor will determine the grade of your ankle sprain to determine the course of treatment. Sprains are graded based on the damage the ligaments sustain, from mild to severe. Grade 1 sprains include slightly stretched, microscopically torn ligament fibers, and severe sprains are completely torn and unstable. Treatment is usually nonsurgical, even for severe ankle sprains, and usually the ankle will heal within 6 to 12 weeks for the most severe sprains.
A 3-phase program designed to heal ankle sprains includes:
- Phase 1: Resting, protecting, and reducing the swelling
- Phase 2: Restoring range of motion, strength, and flexibility, usually through physical therapy
- Phase 3: Gradually returning to activities that do not require turning or twisting of the ankle until the ankle is substantially healed
The Long-Term Prognosis for Ankle Sprains
Most ankle sprains heal completely with proper treatment, especially if you follow your doctor’s orders for rest and any prescribed physical therapy. Your injured ankle may not be as stabled as the unaffected ankle, though, so your doctor will likely suggest exercises to strengthen the muscle of the ankle you sprained. You can reduce your risk for future sprains by wearing a brace, going to physical therapy to strengthen the ankle, avoiding improper footwear such as high heels, warming up prior to exercise, and paying attention to where you’re walking. Left untreated, an ankle sprain can cause long-term pain and instability.
Have You Injured Your Ankle? Make an Appointment with Our Orthopedic Physicians.
It’s important to get your ankle checked out after a sprain. Although many sprains are minor and will heal within a few weeks, the problem could be much more serious than you know. There is no need to suffer in silence.