Ankle sprains are common injuries that do not, as some people think, only happen while playing sports. Instead, these injuries can be sustained while simply misjudging a step or curb, or twisting your foot on uneven ground. When the ankle extends beyond its range of motion, issues begin to develop. We want you to better understand this injury and what should be done when it happens.
The ankle joint, like many other joints, has thick bands of connective tissue called ligaments. This tissue helps hold the bones of the joint in their proper place, making for a more reliable and stable setup for moving and bearing weight. Ligaments are only intended to move within a certain range, so if a force causes them to extend beyond that normal range of motion, overstretching or tearing can occur. This results in a sprain.
The injury is typically graded according to three levels of severity:
- Grade 1: This type involves some stretching and potentially very tiny tears in the fibers of the ligament. Symptoms usually include a bit of tenderness and swelling around the ankle.
- Grade 2: What could be described as a “moderate” sprain, this involves a partial tear in the ligament. Pain and swelling is more intense than with a milder injury, and there can be some looseness of the joint detected if the doctor moves it in certain ways.
- Grade 3: The ligament has completely torn, resulting in plenty of pain and swelling around the ankle. The joint can be very unstable at this point as well.
A “pop” noise is sometimes thought of as being a symptom of this injury. While it can certainly be experienced, it is not a symptom in all cases.
Sprained Ankle Treatment
While many mild cases can be treated well enough at home, it is always ideal to at least speak with a doctor in all cases. First, in some cases it might be difficult to initially tell a sprain from a fracture. Second, even in mild cases, if it does not heal properly or is stressed too soon before fully healing, you can develop chronic pain, instability, and early arthritis in the joint.
If you believe you have sprained your ankle, stop any activity immediately. Keep the ankle elevated and apply ice to help reduce initial pain and swelling. If we believe you should come in, we will conduct a starting exam by checking for tenderness and gently moving the joint to gauge your range of motion. In severe cases, we might call for an imaging test to get a better look at the ligaments or rule out the possibility of a fracture.
In most cases, conservative care will be enough to treat an ankle sprain. Rest will continue to be recommended, and equipment such as crutches, a brace, or a boot provided to keep the ankle more immobilized, if necessary. Laser therapy may also be recommended to help aid pain relief and recovery. Once healed to a proper level, some movement and strengthening exercises may be recommended to help condition the joint back to full strength. If you participate in sports, this will definitely be considered as part of your plan.
In some severe cases, surgery might become a necessity. Many factors need to be taken into consideration at this point, such as age and lifestyle, and will be discussed with you in-depth on a case-by-case basis.
Professional Ankle Care in Twin Falls, ID
As noted, mild ankle sprains can likely be treated with the use of home care, but more severe injuries will require professional diagnosis and treatment. If you are experiencing pain or restricted movement on account of an ankle injury and need professional care, Advanced Foot and Ankle will be glad to help.