Sprained Ankles

Will a sprained ankle usually heal by itself or is it necessary to go to the doctor for treatment?

We all know that the symptoms of sprains and strains are similar, so do you ever wonder why people say they “sprained” their ankle but “strained” their back? Most of us recognize that those are correct but may not actually know why. The simple explanation is that strains occur when muscles and tendons are injured due to being overstretched or torn: this same injury in ligaments is a sprain. 

While the demands we make on the muscles of the lower back are the ones most likely to result in strains, the twists and turns of the ankle joint, especially those that are abrupt and with extra force, are what often lead to sprains. 

Symptoms of Sprained Ankles

The first and most obvious thing you will notice if you have sprained your ankle is that it will be very painful. Other common symptoms include:

  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Discoloration around the ankle from bruising
  • Tender when touched
  • Ankle instability, indicating an especially serious injury

How Serious Is a Sprained Ankle?

Sprained ankles are a pretty common injury. They frequently occur in sporting and other recreational activities but are also likely to be the result of stepping off of a curb or other seemingly harmless movement. All it takes is something happening that results in an awkward or sharp twist of the ankle or being somewhat off balance and landing on the side of the foot instead of the bottom. 

Because they are common, there is sometimes a tendency to not take a sprained ankle seriously. If minor, meaning there is only a slight tear in the ligament, simple home treatments may be sufficient, but it is important to know that a severely sprained ankle can lead to permanent damage if not treated properly. If the ligament has sustained a complete tear, there is the possibility of joint instability, as well as bone and cartilage damage. 

Treatment Options

All treatment is, of course, dictated by the severity of the injury. The goal when it comes to a sprained ankle is to restore mobility to the joint by allowing the ligament to heal. For those injuries that are not obviously critical, this means to begin by reducing the pain and swelling. The most often recommended home treatment for sprained ankles is the R.I.C.E. protocol, meaning a combination of rest, ice, compression and elevation.  

In addition, over-the-counter medications, like Tylenol, Aleve and Advil may help to lessen the pain and wearing an ankle brace or using crutches may be helpful. 

The next step that your physician will likely advise is an exercise program to restore normal functioning to your ankle. Working with a physical therapist can greatly enhance the return to full strength, flexibility and range of motion. 

Surgery will be the last option but is available for those cases when the ligament is simply too damaged to heal on its own. The good news is that ankle arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure typically done on an outpatient basis. If your physician recommends arthroscopy, the benefits will include a quicker recovery period, as well as less pain and reduced scarring. 

If you have questions about a sprained ankle or any other orthopedic concerns, the physicians and staff of Orthopaedic & Sports Associates of Long Island are very experienced in a wide range of orthopedic conditions and are committed to providing personalized care in a state-of-the-art facility. To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here

Posted in: Ankle

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