How to Treat a Sprained Ankle
A sprained ankle is a common type of sports injury that can occur just as easily in everyday life as it can on the sports field. An ankle sprain occurs the moment there’s an unnatural twisting or rolling of the ankle joint which causes your ankle ligaments to overextend, resulting in tissue injury and pain to the affected foot. If you suspect that you or a friend may have a sprained ankle, you’ve come to the right place to identify what to do next.
What Causes a Sprained Ankle?
An ankle sprain occurs when your ankle is forced out of its normal position, typically when you step on an uneven surface or land awkwardly on your foot after jumping. The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion injury where the foot is unnaturally rotated inward, injuring one or more of the ankle ligaments: the Anterior Talofibular Ligament (ATFL), the Calcaneofibular Ligament (CFL), and the Posterior Talofibular Ligament (PFL). In all instances of an ankle sprain, the sudden or unnatural force to your ankle joint causes the ligaments to stretch or even tear, and it’s the ankle ligaments that may require medical attention.
Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle:
The primary symptoms of a sprained ankle are:
- A popping sound or sensation at the time of injury and at the location of impact
- Inflammation, swelling, redness and warmth around the injured ankle
- Pain, tenderness, and inability to bear weight on the ankle
- limited ankle function and range of motion
What to do if you have a Sprained Ankle:
In the first moments after spraining an ankle, it’s important to remove all weight from the foot and ankle, and to apply the RICE principle (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Considering that there is insufficient evidence for RICE to fully treat your ankle sprain, and that you won’t know the extent of the damage just by looking at your foot, you may need to seek medical advice from a medical professional if you feel severe pain while walking or putting pressure on the foot.
If you are in severe pain, you should consider an ankle brace or ankle splint, or even the use of crutches to immobilize the ankle’s range of motion. This will help to avoid placing weight on the foot and to prevent further injury. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen are usually sufficient to manage the pain of a sprained ankle, while you make your way to a doctor.
A doctor will conduct a physical exam, inspecting the skin around the injury for tenderness and to check your ankle’s range of motion to identify angles and positions that cause discomfort. If your injury is severe, your doctor will try to rule out fractured bones, broken bones, and other more serious injuries through Imaging tests that may include x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds.
Ultimately your ankle sprain will be graded according to how severe it is:
– Mild (Grade 1) is a light or mild sprain where your ligaments are stretched but not torn. You have full stability of the ankle joint and only minor damage to the ligaments in the injured area.
– Moderate (Grade 2) is a moderate sprain where one or more ligaments have been stretched to the point they are partially torn. You have slight instability of the ankle joint with swelling and moderate ankle pain, and it will be difficult to stand on your foot.
– Severe (Grade 3) is when one or more ligaments are totally torn, and your ankle is unstable. You are in severe pain and not able to move your injured ankle.
Can I Treat a Sprained Ankle at Home?
Mild and moderate ankle sprains usually don’t need surgery and can be treated at home by:
- applying the RICE principle (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for the first 3 to 5 days
- applying ice to the affected ankle to help reduce swelling and inflammation
- applying heat to the affected area after the swelling has stopped
- stretching and massaging the ankle lightly to keep the muscles strong and increase blood flow
- walking short distances and gradually increasing to longer distances as the ankle begins to heal
- strengthening exercises and physical therapy
Chiropractic care for a Sprained Ankle?
Chiropractic care is a non-invasive approach to rehabilitation that may include gentle joint and soft tissue procedures, electro-physical therapy, dry needling, rehabilitation exercises, and a dietary prescription to help reduce your pain and speed up your recovery time. As a qualified chiropractor specializing in Sports Chiropractic, Dr Matt le Roux can help you improve the mobility and range of motion of your ankle. If your ankle is not healing correctly, or you feel you need extra support in your recovery, book an appointment today.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What helps heal a sprained ankle?
Can you heal a sprained ankle in 2 days?
Does ice help heal a sprained ankle?
Does heat help heal a sprained ankle?
Does walking help heal a sprained ankle?
Can you treat a sprained ankle at home?
What bones are in the ankle joint?
– Fibula: the smaller bone of the lower leg, connecting to the outside ankle joint
– Talus: the small bone that connects your foot to the tibia and fibula, and the bottom part of the ankle joint
Medical News Today
American Academy of Family Physicians
Melanson, SW; Shuman, VL: 2021. Acute Ankle Sprain | National Center for Biotechnology Information
Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal