What is an ankle sprain?
An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. Ankle sprains are common injuries that occur among people of all ages.
If you twisted your ankle and it is painful to walk on, be sure to see a doctor. Without proper treatment and rehabilitation, your ankle can weaken — making it more likely that you will injure it again. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to long-term problems, including chronic pain and instability.
Almost all ankle sprains can be treated without surgery. Even a complete ligament tear can heal without surgical repair if it is immobilized appropriately.
Treatment of ankle sprains
The PRICE protocol should begin as soon as possible after your injury:
• Protection of the ankle with a brace, walking boot or splint.
• Rest the ankle by not walking on it; crutches are often needed for severe injuries.
• Ice should be applied for 20 minutes. Protect skin from frostbite by placing a barrier between the ice and skin. This can be repeated every few hours. Do not apply ice if you have poor blood flow or reduced sensation in the area.
• Compression bandages or wraps.
• Elevate the ankle as often as possible during the first 72 hours.
Next is the rehabilitation phase, often under the supervision of a physical therapist:
• Range-of-motion exercises to prevent stiffness.
• Strengthening once you can bear weight without increased pain or swelling.
• Proprioception training with a balance board.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help control pain and swelling. They improve function by both reducing swelling and controlling pain.
Athletes should perform functional testing before returning to sports. Assessments such as the single leg balance test (amount of time participant can stand on injured leg while hands are on hips) or the Star Excursion Balance Test (distance uninjured leg can reach while standing on injured leg) can be done without laboratory or clinical equipment. More advanced single-limbed hopping tasks also help assess readiness to return to play, especially when compared with the uninjured leg.
The patient’s perception of function should also be taken into consideration. Level and frequency of pain, ability to make sharp turns and walk down stairs, and awareness of instability should be taken into account.
Outcomes for ankle sprains are generally quite good. With proper treatment, most patients are able to resume their day-to-day activities after a period of time.
Skokie Foot & Ankle Specialists, Ltd.
9933 Lawler Ave., Suite 315
Skokie, Illinois 60077