More than 25,000 people sprain their ankles every day, according to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.
Ankle sprains are caused by an unnatural twisting or force on the ankle bones of the foot, often resulting in stretching or tearing in one or more ligaments on the outside of the ankle. If not properly treated, ankle sprains could develop into long-term problems.
Treatment includes resting the ankle and applying ice to reduce swelling. Compressive bandages also may be used to immobilize and support the injury. More serious ankle sprains, particularly in competitive athletes, may require surgery to repair and tighten the ligaments.
An ankle sprain is a common injury and usually results when the ankle is twisted, or inverted. The term “sprain” signifies injury (below) to the soft tissues, usually the ligaments, of the ankle.
How Do You Know It’s an Ankle Sprain and Not Broken?
Diagnosis of an ankle sprain is usually made by examination of the ankle and X-rays to make sure that there is no fracture. If a complete rupture of the ligaments is suspected, your doctor may order stress X-rays as well. These pictures are taken while someone twists or “stresses” the ligaments.
Treatment begins initially by:
- Controlling swelling.
- Controlling pain.
- Controlling weight bearing.
Elevation, gentle compression, and ice all help to control swelling. Mild pain relievers help with the pain, and crutches are often provided to prevent weight bearing.
Casts have fallen out of favor, and as treatment progresses, early weight bearing has been shown to be beneficial. Braces that can support the ankle but still allow weight bearing are the most popular treatment method today.
Healing of the ligaments usually takes about 6 weeks. The swelling may be present for several months. A physical therapist may be suggested to help you regain full function of your injured ankle.
If conservative treatment does correct the ankle, surgery may be suggested to completely heal the ankle. Your podiatrist will be able to determine the correct treatment for your situation.