An ankle sprain refers to an injury that occurs as a result of rolling or twisting the ankle in an inappropriate manner. Such movements may cause the tough bands of tissues or ligaments that hold the ankle bone together to stretch and tear.
Ligaments stabilize the joints, thus minimizing excessive movement. An ankle sprain may take place when the ligaments are impacted with a force to move beyond their normal range of motion. Most cases of sprained ankle involve injuries to the ligaments that lie on the outer side of the ankle.
Treatment for ankle sprain usually depends on the severity of the damage caused. Self-care, conservative methods and over-the-counter pain medication may be adequate to resolve symptoms; however, you must see a doctor for a medical evaluation to determine how badly you have injured the ankle and ligaments, in order to receive proper treatment.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of ankle sprain include:
• Pain – especially during weight bearing activities
• Restricted range of motion
• A ‘pop’ sound may be heard during the onset of the injury
When to seek medical attention
See a doctor if you ankle hurts and is swollen or if you feel that you may have an ankle sprain. Although self-treatment may be enough to treat the injury, you need to determine whether the injury is mild or severe through medical evaluation. In case of a severe ankle sprain, you possibly might have broken the bone in your ankle or the lower leg.
Conservative treatment methods include the RICE treatment:
• Rest. Avoid activities that may trigger pain, discomfort and swelling. However, do not avoid activity completely. Make sure you give your foot enough rest to allow symptoms to subside. You can exercise the other muscles in your body in order to ward off de-conditioning. For instance, you can perform low-impact activities such as cycling, exercises that involve working your arms and the unaffected leg – making sure you rest the ankle on the footrest. This way you will exercise all unaffected limbs and sustain cardiovascular conditioning.
• Ice. Even if you plan on seeking medical help, make sure you ice the affected region promptly after injury. Use an ice pack or a slush bath for about 20 minutes and repeat every 2-3 hours a day. Cold compresses may reduce pain, inflammation and swelling in the injured joints and muscles. If the affected region turns white, stop cold treatment immediately as this may signal a cold injury. If you are diabetic or have cardiovascular disease, speak with your doctor before ice treatment.
• Compression. Compress the ankle using an elastic bandage to reduce swelling, until swelling subsides. Avoid wrapping too tightly as this may discourage circulation. Loosen wrapping if you feel pain or if the foot becomes numb or starts to swell below the area that is wrapped.
• Elevation. Keeping the ankle above heart level when you rest will reduce swelling at night.
Other treatment measures include:
• Medications. You can use over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain
• Physical therapy. Your physical therapists may direct you to perform some exercises to restore range of motion, flexibility, strength and balance of the ankle.
• Surgery. If the ankle joint is not stable, your health care provider may refer you to a surgeon or required specialist for an evaluation. You may also need to wear cast or walking boot so that your joint can heal properly. Only in rare cases, for example if your ligament tears will you need surgical repair to correct the damage.
Ask help from a Perth physiotherapist at i Physio Perth. Call us at 9444 8729 today!