An ankle sprain is one of those injuries that seems to occur exactly when you least expect it.
Sure, you might be a sports star who wrenched their ankle right before they’re needed for a big play, but odds are likely better you stepped off a curb wrong while hurrying to catch a meeting.
Regardless of when and how a sprained ankle happens, knowing what to do about it can be a big help both toward your recovery and avoiding complications into the future—and that goes from a minor twist to a major injury!
First, let’s take a closer look at what a sprain is.
What is a Sprain?
How a sprain looks and feels will often depend upon the severity of the injury, but you can usually expect:
- Pain (of course) and tenderness that tends to worsen when you try to bear weight on the foot
- Ankle instability (“wobbliness”)
- An inability to bend the ankle as far as you usually can
- A “pop” or “snap” sound at the time of the injury, usually when it’s a bad sprain
The cause of these problems lies in the ligaments that surround the ankle. Their job is to hold the joint stable, but they are not invincible in themselves.
When the ankle bends or twists outside of its normal range or position, it puts excess stress on these ligaments. This can cause the ligaments to stretch, develop a partial tear, or even rupture completely.
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether you have experienced a really bad sprain or have actually broken a bone in your ankle. A broken ankle tends to look more misshapen than a sprained ankle, and you might feel numbness and tingling with a fracture more than straight up pain from a sprain.
In the end, however, you’re going to need help either way!
What to Do if You Sprain Your Ankle?
The first and most important step when you believe you have sprained your ankle is to put a complete halt to whatever you may have been doing to have caused it. If you’re out playing soccer or football or running, do nottry to “walk it off.” You’re done for today. Period.
Get off your feet as soon as possible and start to engage in self-care. The sooner you can start addressing your sprain, the better it will be for alleviating your symptoms.
Applying ice to the sprained area can help reduce swelling and relieve pain. Apply for up to 20 minutes every two or three hours. Do not apply ice directly to the skin (wrap ice or a cold pack in a towel instead) and do not exceed the time limits presented here. Doing so can risk injury to the skin.
Keeping the injured ankle above the level of your heart is also an effective way to reduce swelling. Keep your feet up and propped on pillows, if possible—especially at night. This will help drain excess fluid that causes swelling.
Above all, the best practice for a suspected sprain is to call us about it.In most cases, your sprain can probably be treated conservatively. However, worse sprains require more advanced care, and any sprain that doesn’t heal properly can lead to future problems down the road. These can range from developing arthritis, to chronic pain, to losing stability in your ankle and increasing your risk of more and worse sprains.
Anytime you have sprained your ankle, or are facing another cause of foot or ankle pain, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We will always be happy to provide advice or have you come in for an exam, just to be safe.