An ankle injury can put a stop to just about anything fast. A sudden rush of pain and a sudden, hobbling loss of stability is all it takes to demand a time out—and that’s definitely what you should take!
We previously discussed the differences between an ankle sprain and an ankle fracture. The distinction is certainly important to make later on in treatment, but nobody expects you to be an ankle expert at the time an injury happens.
And, in one way, that lack of initial distinction is a good thing.
All Ankle Injuries Should Receive the Same Initial Attention
We tend to place fractures on a higher pedestal than sprains. The thought of a broken bone can make someone more squeamish than a sprain, and that seems perfectly normal.
The truth, however, is that both types of injuries can cause you long-term trouble if they are not taken care of properly. A broken bone that doesn’t heal well can interfere with mobility, of course, but a ligament that doesn’t heal properly can cause chronic ankle instability and a much higher likelihood of further injuries in the future.
Any ankle injury you sustain should be treated with the same kind of delicate attention. Even if you have some clues, you don’t know exactly what may have happened in the moment.
Your first course of action for an ankle injury is always to stop. Do not continue to bear weight upon the ankle at all, if possible, and absolutely do not try to “walk it off” and keep participating in running or any sports! Doing so only risks your injury becoming even worse, and that only means more pain and potentially longer recovery times for you.
Once you have put a stop to your activity, it is a good idea to follow standard RICE protocol:
- REST – Keep weight off your injured ankle as much as possible. This is most crucial for the first 48 hours following an injury, and can significantly impact the level of pain, swelling, and bruising you experience.
- ICE – Further reduce pain and swelling with the use of cold therapy. Apply an ice pack (a bag of frozen vegetables will work in a pinch) for up to 20 minutes every 2-3 hours for the first couple days of the injury. Note: never apply ice or a pack directly to your skin; wrap it in a thin towel or some other barrier first to avoid damaging your skin.
- COMPRESSION – This one is more difficult to accomplish, so it can be skipped if you are not confident in it. Wrap your ankle in an elastic or ACE bandage to help further address swelling. The wrap must be snug but not so tight that it restricts blood flow. If your skin starts to feel cold or numb, or turns blue, loosen the bandage.
- ELEVATE – Keep your ankle above the level of your heart to reduce pain and swelling. This is as easy as propping your leg up on some pillows while on the couch or in bed.
You might have noticed the big emphasis on reducing pain and swelling. This is not only to keep you comfortable, but to help shorten your recovery time as well.
How Advanced Foot and Ankle Can Help
Regardless of what type of ankle injury you have (or believe you have), it is always best to give us a call and let us know what happened, as well as your symptoms. If it sounds like a mild sprain, we may suggest home care. However, if there is any reason to believe there may be a complication, we will ask you to come in for an evaluation.
Either way, we will have a record of the injury. If problems do start developing in the future, we will have your history available to assist in making decisions on how to address them.
Depending upon the type of injury and its severity, we may recommend different forms of treatment.
For an ankle sprain, we will almost certainly recommend continued rest and avoidance of activity to allow the strained ligament to recover. A brace, boot, or crutches may be provided to immobilize the ankle, if needed.
Our MLS Laser Therapy can also be a valuable tool in many cases. This form of therapy uses light energy to stimulate the body’s own natural recovery processes in the area of a soft tissue injury, increasing blood flow and cellular repair activity. Sprains are often a responsive form of injury for this technique.
An ankle fracture might require some manipulation and adjustment to set the bone, followed by immobilization with a splint or cast. Recovery will be monitored over the following weeks to make sure things are healing properly.
In either case of a severe sprain or severe fracture, surgery may be necessary to properly repair a ligament or set a bone in place. We will be sure to fully discuss the extent of a surgical procedure with you, and what you can expect afterward in terms of recovery.
In the case of either injury, physical therapy may be recommended as part of rehabilitation. This is to strengthen the muscles and tissues surrounding the joint and reconditioning it to get it back to original function as much as possible.
Help for Hurting Ankles in Twin Falls and Burley
When it comes to your ankle health, erring on the side of caution is always recommended. Your ankles are the foundation of your locomotion, and we can help you keep moving and avoid future complications as much as possible.