How do you treat a sprained ankle?


If you can’t walk on your sprained ankle, then you should see a medical professional and get an x-ray. If you can walk on it, then anti-inflammatories, rest, ice, compression and elevation will help. Physical therapy for functional ankle strengthening is also very helpful. A brace may be useful for about a week. At some point everyone sprains their ankle, in fact I sprained my left ankle the other day during a run, and I’m currently dealing with it as I write this article. A sprained ankle is the most common reason for missed athletic participation. Most of the time we are focused on our sprained ankle, and then it just kind of goes away. We forget about it, until we sprain it again! Even though it may hurt a lot at first, you can stay positive about your sprained ankle knowing that it will usually go away on its own, and there is a very low possibility that you will ever need surgery. As an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs, I definitely see my fair share of sprained ankles.

What exactly is a sprained ankle?

Your ankle is a joint made up up your two shin bones, the tibia and fibula, and the top bone of your foot called the talus. Your body needs a way to connect these bones so that the ankle is stable, and can glide smoothly. When the body makes a connection between two bones, it is usually called a ligament, as opposed to a tendon which is where a muscle inserts onto a bone. There are three main ankle ligaments on the outside of your ankle that give it support. There is one on the front, one on the side, and one on the back. When you sprain your ankle, you end up stretching these ligaments which causes inflammation, swelling, and pain. The ligament in the front is the most commonly injured, followed by the ligament on the side, and rarely the one in the back.

What should I do after I sprain my ankle?

The best thing to do immediately after you sprain your ankle, is if you are playing a sport or running, is to stop and evaluate your ankle. Most sprained ankles don’t require X-rays, but you should consider getting one if you can’t walk on it, or if there is a specific spot on your foot or ankle that is extremely tender. Sometimes a sprained ankle may be associated with fractures of the ankle itself, 5th metatarsal, talus, or part of the calcaneus (heel bone).If you are able to walk on it, know that your ankle will require some rest. Icing it, wrapping it, and elevating it above the level of your heart will help with the swelling. Anti-inflammatories such as Advil will help as well. If you have really bad pain while walking, then using an ankle brace or walking boot may be appropriate for about a week. Physical therapy is also your friend when it comes to sprained ankles. Not only will it allow you to get back to your activities faster, it will help prevent you from getting sprained ankles in the future. In rare instances if you have continued pain or instability of your ankle, then surgery is a possibility. If this is the case then you should definitely have your ankle looked at by an orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist to make sure the diagnosis is right and to guide your treatment appropriately. In my orthopedic practice in Colorado Springs, sprained ankles rarely need surgery.

I hope I was able to answer your questions about how you treat a sprained ankle. If you would like me to treat your sprained ankle, contact us below to make an appointment if you are in the Colorado Springs area. I also am available for virtual consults.

-Written by Dr. Daniel Paull

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