Treating a Sprained Ankle

A sprained ankle happens when you hurt one or more of the ligaments (bands of tissue) around your ankle joint. Your ankle may be painful and swollen, and you may find it hard to move your foot properly.

A sprained ankle is a very common injury.

It can happen when you twist or turn your foot beyond its normal movement. This can stretch or tear the ligaments that support your joint. Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that connect one bone to another. You may be more likely to have an ankle sprain if you play a lot of sports or you’re prone to falls.

A sprained ankle can be very painful. But the good news is that most ankle sprains heal well. With simple self-care advice, most people get better after a few weeks and return to their normal activities in a few months.

Symptoms of a sprained ankle

Your symptoms will depend on how bad your injury is. They may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Restricted movement
  • Difficulty putting weight on your foot
  • Instability of your ankle (your ankle feels wobbly when you try to stand on it)
  • A popping or tearing sound at the time of your injury

If your symptoms are mild, you may decide for yourself that you have a sprained ankle. If you’re worried about your ankle, or you’re in a lot of pain, you may choose to go to the hospital A&E department.

A sprained ankle can be ‘graded’. In some cases, when you have accessed medical support you may need a scan, such as an X-ray, to help decide on the grade. Depending on the severity of the symptoms you may need a scan to exclude the possibility of a broken bone (a fracture).

  1. A grade I sprain is a mild sprain, which happens when you overstretch a ligament. You may have mild swelling, bruising and pain around your ankle, but you should be able to put some weight on your foot.
  2. A grade 2 sprain is a moderate sprain. This happens when you overstretch and partially tear a ligament. You may have quite a lot of swelling, bruising and pain around your ankle, which may feel a little unstable (wobbly). You may find it difficult to put weight on your foot.
  3. A grade 3 sprain is a severe sprain, which happens when you completely tear a ligament. The swelling, bruising and pain around your ankle are usually very bad. Your ankle may feel quite unstable (wobbly) and you won’t be able to put any weight on your foot without a lot of pain.

Treatment of a sprained ankle

Treating a sprained ankle aims to reduce pain and swelling. It also makes sure your ankle can keep or get back to its usual range of movement as soon as possible. It can be frustrating, but it may take several months to recover from a sprained ankle, especially if it’s very bad. So, you may need to be patient and follow treatment advice carefully. You may need to use a mixture of self-care, medicines and exercises.

If you have a sprained ankle, there’s a lot you can do to ease your symptoms in the first few days.

You will need to seek medical advice if you have the following;

  • Pain, bruising, or severe swelling
  • Bleeding, numbness, or change in colour of the affected area
  • Your ankle looks deformed or seems dislocated
  • You can’t put any weight on it
  • Control Swelling

If your ankle is just painful and swollen, remove ankle bracelets or toe rings right away. Then try the “RICE” method to ease your symptoms.

RICE stands for “rest, ice, compress, and elevate.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. Rest the ankle (use crutches if needed)
  2. Ice the ankle for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 to 3 hours for the first 2 days
  3. Compress (support) the ankle lightly with an elastic support or ankle brace
  4. For the first 48 hours, elevate (raise) the ankle higher than your heart whenever you’re lying down

You can take certain over the counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, to help ease your ankle pain.  (Don’t give Aspirin to anyone under age 19).

Forty-eight hours after your injury, your doctor may also suggest you take oral ibuprofen (such as tablets or capsules). Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory as well as a painkiller, so will help to reduce the swelling around your sprained ankle. It’s best not to use oral ibuprofen and other similar medicines in the first two days after your injury as they may delay healing.

Always read the patient information that comes with your medicine. If you have questions, ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.

Exercise and movement after a sprained ankle

The right time to start exercising your ankle usually depends on how bad it is.

If your ankle sprain is mild, you should start moving your ankle as soon as you can. Once your pain isn’t too bad, start doing some gentle exercises too. These may help prevent stiffness and will eventually get your ankle moving normally. But if you’re at all worried about doing exercises or feel any pain, stop and speak to a doctor, nurse or physiotherapist before continuing.

If you have a bad sprain

If you have a bad sprain, your doctor may advise you to immobilise it. This means keeping your ankle still and will probably only be for a few days. Your doctor may also advise you to wear a below-knee cast or brace. This may help to reduce any pain and swelling around your ankle quicker than a compression bandage.

If you’re not sure when and how to start exercising your ankle, ask your doctor, nurse or physiotherapist and follow their advice.

Prevention of a sprained ankle

There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of spraining an ankle. This includes keeping the muscles around your ankle as strong and as flexible as possible. Some other things you can do are listed below.

  • Wear shoes that are suitable for the activity you’re doing and in good condition. Wearing high-heels or platform shoes can be risky, especially on uneven ground.
  • Take care when you’re walking or running on uneven surfaces – exercise on even surfaces if you can.
  • Warm up and stretch your muscles before playing sport and cool down afterwards too.
  • During certain activities it may help to wear high-top shoes (ones that go above your ankle), an ankle brace or ankle tape.
  • Stay at a healthy weight for your height – sprains are more likely if you’re very overweight

Total Body Orthotics have a large range of ankle supports and braces to suit all. If you feel you need some extra help in finding a support or brace to improve your sprained ankle symptoms then please contact us here at Total Body Orthotics for guidance. if you have any questions please contact a member of our team using our online enquiries form.

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