April 4, 2019
A sprain is a stretching or tearing of ligaments- the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones together in your joints. The most common location for a sprain is in your ankle. Ankle sprains usually happen when the ankle turns too far in or too far out. Symptoms of an ankle sprain include pain, swelling, bruising, trouble moving the joint, unsteadiness in the joint, and trouble bearing weight on the joint.
If you have any of these symptoms, you might want to have your ankle evaluated by a medical provider to make sure there’s not also a broken bone. A provider can often diagnose an ankle sprain by examining your ankle, but sometimes an x-ray might be needed. Indications for further testing include if you are having trouble bearing weight on the ankle, if it looks crooked or deformed, or if it’s unstable or feeling like it’s giving out.
If you are diagnosed with an ankle sprain, treatment includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You can remember this by the acronym “RICE.” Resting the ankle by using crutches or staying off your feet as much as you can for the first few days gives the ankle a chance to heal. Ice in the form of an ice pack (or bag of ice, or even a bag of frozen vegetables) applied 20 minutes on, 20 mins off, 3-4 times a day, helps by reducing swelling in the ankle that often accompanies a sprain. Use a thin towel between the ice and the skin so you don’t damage the skin or get it too cold. Compression means applying pressure to the injured area. This helps reduce swelling and supports the ankle. You can do this by using an elastic bandage such as an ace bandage. Make sure not to wrap the ankle too tightly or it can cut off your circulation. Elevation can help with pain and swelling and involves raising the ankle above the level of the heart. You can do this by propping the ankle up on pillows, a blanket, or even a chair or table.
To help with pain when you have an ankle sprain, you can take Tylenol, Advil or Aleve as directed on the label. Your provider might also recommend a splint or a brace to help protect the ankle and keep it still if the sprain is more severe. Most people’s pain is greatly decreased by the second week after the ankle sprain happens. However, some people can be bothered by pain for a longer time. Talk to your medical provider to discuss what you should do if you have pain for longer than two weeks.
To avoid ankle sprains, use caution when walking on slippery or uneven surfaces. Wear proper footwear and sporting equipment that offers support and protection. Regular stretching and strengthening exercises as part of an overall physical conditioning program can also help decrease your risk of sprains.
If you have ankle pain or are concerned for an ankle fracture, come visit us at Champlain Medical Urgent Care to be evaluated!