One of the most common injuries of people of all ages is an ankle sprain. A simple misstep is all it takes. An ankle sprain occurs when your foot turns in or out – and causes the ligaments to stretch or tear. Along with that comes pain, swelling, and occasionally difficulty walking. If an ankle sprain causes more than slight pain and swelling, it should be examined by a healthcare provider. Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, a severe ankle injury could cause persistent issues over time. If this is not the first ankle sprain, or if the injury was severe, an evaluation from a physical therapist will help play a critical role in getting you back in action and help to prevent future ankle sprains.
The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion injury, or lateral ankle sprain, which occurs when the ankle rolls inward damaging the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. A ligament connects bone to bone and creates stability within a joint. Less common are medial ankle sprains, which occur when the ankle rolls outward. Due to the structure of our bones and number of ligaments, medial ankle sprains are not as common. The last type of ankle sprain can be referred to as a high ankle sprain. When this occurs, the ligaments connecting the tibia to the fibula (the two bones in your lower leg) just above your ankle are injured. An injury of this type is more likely to cause long term problems and subsequent sprains.
So how do you treat a sprained ankle? Using the P-R-I-C-E method, the first line of defense is to treat pain and swelling.
- Protect the injury by ceasing activities to prevent further injury
- Rest – there should be minimal load placed on the foot or ankle in the first 24 hours.
- Ice packs can be applied for 15-20 minutes, 2-3 times per day.
- Compression with an ACE bandage or brace is advised for swelling.
- Elevation will help reduce swelling further, preferably by keeping the foot above heart level.
How long will recovery take? Depending on the extent of the injury, recovery could vary from 2 weeks to 2 months. If this is the first ankle sprain, a brace can be worn to help with pain to allow the ankle to regain strength and balance. Once the pain improves and there is no longer a limp with walking or running, it is appropriate to resume normal activities.
If pain and swelling are severe and weight bearing is difficult, an examination by a physical therapist is warranted to evaluate the extent of the injury. After utilizing the PRICE method unsuccessfully or if symptoms are not mild and improving over the first few days – please contact the Axes nearest you!