What You Need to Know about Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains are one of the most common accidental orthopedic injuries. This article will give you a better idea of what to expect if you suffer an ankle sprain so that you can know how and when to get it treated.
What causes an ankle sprain?
Ankle sprains are often the result of accidents that involve significant pressure or force on the ankle, straining the surrounding ligaments. There are several ligaments that support the ankle and keep the bone in place. If one of these is strained or stretched too far, the ankle is considered sprained.
Common causes of ankle sprains include
- Accidental foot placements or movements that strain the ligaments (often in running or sports)
- Moving on uneven ground
- Falling in a way that strains the ligaments
- The weight of another person standing or falling on the ankle (often during sports)
Athletes in high-impact sports like football or soccer are more likely to experience high-ankle sprains. These sprains are caused by straining the ligaments just above the ankle joint, between the lower leg bones. Sudden movements that twist or put pressure just above the ankle can cause high-ankle sprains.
The immediate ankle sprain is called an acute sprain. An acute ankle sprain can sometimes develop into a chronic ankle sprain or instability, meaning the ligament supporting the ankle has become unstable and may give out easily.
What are the symptoms of an ankle sprain?
Ankle sprains are often associated with the following symptoms:
- Pain around the joint
- Popping feeling or sound at the moment of injury
- Difficulty putting weight on the ankle or moving around
If you suspect that you may have a sprained ankle that isn’t starting to feel better on its own, seek medical attention right away. Sprained ankles can easily get worse if left untreated.
How is an ankle sprain diagnosed?
To diagnose an ankle sprain, a doctor may use the following methods:
- A physical exam to determine the source of pain and to evaluate your ankle’s range of motion
- An X-ray to examine the bone for fractures
- An MRI to examine the integrity of the ankle’s surrounding ligaments
- An ultrasound for further examination of the ligaments
There are three grades of ankle sprain. More severe ankle sprains are diagnosed as higher grade.
- Grade 1: Slight strain or tearing of the ligament, but the ankle remains stable and can usually still support weight.
- Grade 2: A more severe strain or tearing of the ligament, accompanied by more severe pain, swelling, and bruising. Walking is painful but possible.
- Grade 3: A complete tear of the ligament, which causes severe pain and swelling. The ankle joint becomes unstable and cannot usually support weight or walking.
How is an ankle sprain treated?
In the immediate aftermath of an ankle injury, use the RICE method to avoid further injury or swelling.
- Rest: Stay off the injured ankle to avoid further strain.
- Ice: Apply ice to the injured ankle to help relieve inflammation
- Compression: Wrap the injured ankle in an elastic bandage. Be sure to not wrap it too tightly.
- Elevation: Keep the injured ankle resting up high, above your heart.
Many ankle sprains can be treated at home with the proper care:
- Avoid moving around or putting weight on the injured ankle
- Use crutches
- Wear an ankle brace to support and stabilize the injured ankle
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers
More severe sprains may require more medical attention. Other medical treatments can include recommended physical therapy exercises to rebuild strength and extend range of motion or a brace or cast that stabilizes the injured ankle.
In the most extreme cases of ankle instability, orthopedic surgery may be necessary. There are two primary surgical options depending on the location and severity of the sprain:
- Arthroscopy: In this procedure, the surgeon will examine the inside of the ankle joint and remove any loose bone, cartilage, or ligament fragments that may be contributing to the injury.
- Reconstruction: The surgeon will repair the torn or damaged ligament either by stitching it together or using tissue from nearby ligaments.
Ankle Sprains: Treatment at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants
An ankle sprain can easily get worse if left untreated. You don’t want to be off your feet or out of the game any longer than you have to be. At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, our orthopedic surgeons and specialists care about your health and quality of life and are ready with some of the most innovative treatments to get you back to doing what you love.
If you’re still suffering from an ankle sprain, book an appointment with us today!