If you’ve ever been cursed with the misfortune of spraining an ankle, you know the uncomfortable journey from immobility to recovery. Unless you’re one of the lucky few whose ankle heals on its own with minimal intervention, taking an active role in the healing process is important. That’s why we’ve created this blog post to provide the ultimate guide to sprained ankle treatment.
Identifying a Sprained Ankle
Identifying a sprained ankle can be a challenge, as it is often difficult to distinguish an ankle sprain from other similar sports-related injuries. It is important for athletes and those engaged in physical activity to understand the differences between a sprained ankle and other issues, such as a rolled ankle. Depending on the severity of the injury, the treatment for each may vary greatly.
A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments around the joint are stretched beyond their normal range. Many times, ligament damage can occur from landing incorrectly on a jump or shifting your weight too quickly in an aggressive direction. The most common symptom of a sprained ankle is localized pain, as well as swelling and tenderness around the affected area. A rolled ankle usually involves only minimal ligament strain and typically doesn’t cause extensive damage. This type of injury generally results in temporary discomfort before fully healing within days or weeks. Most importantly, unlike with a sprained ankle, walking is usually immediately possible without restriction.
With any health-related concern, it’s important to consult with a physician or sports medicine specialist to determine an accurate diagnosis and a proper treatment plan. During the evaluation, X-rays may be taken to help determine if further damage has occurred, such as a broken bone or fractured tendon. Knowing what kind of foot injury you are dealing with early on is key to getting you back to your active lifestyle as soon as possible and avoiding future complications.
After identifying a sprained ankle, it is important to assess the severity of the injury. That is because different types of ankle sprains require different degrees of rest and rehabilitation. Typically, some degree of pain, swelling, instability, or weakness in the ankle will be felt. For more severe injuries, one may experience numbness and reddening of the skin. Depending on the severity, the pain experienced will vary; mild sprains tend to feel like an ache, whereas more severe ones may produce an excruciating, sharp pain that can make standing or walking very difficult. Furthermore, in some cases, the person may not be able to move their foot without assistance. Symptoms should also include minor discoloration around the area as well as a restricted range of motion, since both can cause a great deal of discomfort.
It is thus essential for medical personnel or even laypersons to accurately determine the severity of the sprain so that appropriate treatment can be delivered. Knowing when to seek treatment from a healthcare professional is also vital since spraining an ankle can lead to long-term stability problems if left untreated or treated ineffectively.
The most important treatment for a sprained ankle is rest and immobilization. Inactivity helps reduce the swelling associated with an ankle sprain and allows the ligaments to heal. It is typically recommended that one avoid weight-bearing activities with a sprained ankle until it can bear the full weight of the body without pain. Rest and immobilization help to protect against further injury or re-injury, decreasing the risk of long-term disability for individuals with a severe sprain.
Immobilization can be achieved in many forms, including splinting, taping, bracing, and casting. It is important that anyone who believes they have sustained a sprain seek guidance from a medical professional regarding the best approach to immobilizing their ankle. Depending on the severity of the sprain, they may suggest using crutches as part of the support system. Following these instructions will be critical to allowing the body to heal properly before transitioning into any type of rehabilitation program.
Now that an individual has obtained the necessary medical advice, rested, and immobilized their sprained ankle as much as possible, it is time to begin using crutches as a way of providing further support. The crutches effectively reduce the stress on an injured ankle by shifting more of the weight to the crutches and upper body rather than the foot. It is important to use crutches in a way that supports healing and does not restrict it.
When first beginning to use crutches, it is recommended that they be used constantly to help spread out the load on both legs over a day. This can help prevent new injuries from occurring as it promotes proper balance when standing or sitting. Alternatively, some physical therapists do recommend periods of rest between each to allow fresh blood flow to the area, resulting in faster healing times. While this is not always practical for some people with busy lifestyles or commitments, it does seem like a reasonable approach for those able to do so with supervision.
The final part is determining how long the crutches should be used for before transitioning away from them. This should ideally be done with professional input from a doctor or physical therapist who can assess whether the ankle possesses sufficient strength and stability for walking unassisted, which could potentially decrease the chances of re-injury. Medical advice should ultimately determine whether this happens quickly or takes longer due to delayed healing.
The physical and home exercise plan aimed at rehabilitating a sprained ankle is an essential part of the recovery process. As per the latest research, it is recommended that patients commence an exercise program to reduce the risk of recurrence and help restore functional movement to the injured ankle.
There are two main approaches considered when it comes to strengthening the ankle: static ankle ligament stretching and dynamic strengthening exercises.
At this stage, it is important to note that rest should no longer be the main focus of treatment; rather, active interventions such as dynamic strengthening should be prioritized to optimize recovery outcomes and reduce the risk of re-injury.
Another important aspect of enhancing strength and mobility is proprioceptive training. Proprioception refers to one’s ability to sense position, motion, direction, force, and speed relative to oneself within the environment. Proprioception training entails activities designed to enhance neuromuscular control while helping individuals better understand their bodies in space.
Studies have linked proprioceptive deficits with an increased risk for recurrent ankle sprains. Thus, incorporating relevant training activities into a comprehensive treatment plan for sprained ankle recovery can help maximize post-injury outcomes.
At Rogers Foot & Ankle Institute, our experienced doctors are dedicated to providing effective solutions for foot and ankle conditions in Eagle Mountain, UT.
We have an understanding of the complexity of the ankle and the various causes of a sprained ankle. With this knowledge, we can work towards finding the source of the pain and finding a solution.
If you have injured your ankle and suspect a sprain, seeking medical attention from a podiatrist can help you get the care you need to recover. Contact us at 801-756-4200 to schedule an appointment today!