Ankle sprains are injuries affecting the ligaments that bind joints together. Mild to moderate ankle sprains usually heal well with conservative treatment. However, severe ankle sprains require medical treatment to rule out a fracture (break) and/or treat the severe sprain appropriately.
To better assess an ankle injury and properly treat it, consider the following guide.
Is it a Sprain or a Break?
If you notice any of the following, get an evaluation from a physician:
- Your leg or foot bends at an abnormal angle
- You experience severe pain
- The foot turns pale or changes color
- Your foot or toes feel numb or tingly
- You cannot move your foot or ankle
- You heard popping when the injury occurred
- You notice severe pain, bruising or swelling
- You can’t put weight on the affected foot or you notice instability
- You notice swelling, redness or pain in your leg
- You have no improvement after seven days
- You notice bruising or swelling for longer than 14 days
If you experience any of the above symptoms, visit the doctor to make sure you have not sustained a break or other complications.
Treating a Sprain
Mild to Moderate ankle sprains: you can relieve symptoms and promote faster recovery by employing the RICE approach. R – Rest your ankle; I – Ice your ankle for 20 minutes at a time for 48 to 72 hours; C – Compression – you can use an ace bandage; E – Elevate. As mentioned above, a severe ankle sprain may require further treatment than conservative measures.
Once healed, it is important to prevent re-injury by gradually returning to activity. A physical therapist can help tremendously in preventing re-injury by working on ankle range of motion, strength, and balance.
When treating your sprain, be sure to use precautions to avoid complications. Never apply ice directly to your skin or you could suffer tissue damage. Likewise, when using compression, be sure to wrap your ankle loosely enough to allow plenty of blood flow. You should also bend you knee and move your leg for a few minutes every hour to minimize the risk of a blood clot. If you do notice any troubling symptoms, visit your family physician or an urgent care facility for a thorough evaluation.