Ankle sprains are certainly one of the most common sports injuries of the feet and ankles. According to estimates from the National Institute of Health, there are almost 1 million cases per year in the United States alone.
Unfortunately, because sprains are so common, not everyone who experiences one seeks medical help or considers it a serious injury. We want to dissuade you from that point of view: you should never underestimate an ankle sprain. Although the vast majority of cases can be treated using conservative care, it’s still important to take the necessary time and actions to allow your ankle to heal fully and properly. Doing so ensures you can come back healthy and strong, and minimize the risk of re-injury, long-term instability, or other chronic issues.
The immediate self-care response to an ankle sprain should be following the RICE protocol. RICE has four components:
- Rest: Avoid putting weight or pressure on the ankle, or participating in activities that cause pain
- Ice: Use ice packs for 15-20 minutes at a time (no more than once per hour) as needed
- Compression: Use an elastic bandage to compress the ankle and prevent swelling
- Elevation: Keep your ankle above heart level (or at least parallel to the ground) as often as possible while sitting or sleeping
We also strongly recommend that you make an appointment with our office after an ankle sprain, particularly if pain continues for more than 2-3 days. A professional examination can help reveal the exact extent of the damage and set you on the best possible path to recovery and full health. You might even discover that your ankle is actually broken, rather than merely sprained!
Additional conservative care we may provide, depending on your circumstances, may include prescription strength medication (should OTC alternatives prove insufficient), as well as rehab and physical therapy (when you’re ready) to re-strengthen the ankle and improve range of motion after the initial injury as healed. It really is critically important that you take rehab seriously and follow all your instructions—not only will this improve healing, but failure to do so may lead to chronic weakness or arthritis in the joint.
Every case is different, though, and we’ll tailor a recovery plan that we believe will work best for your specific situation and lifestyle. Although severe sprains may occasionally call for surgery, we are strong believers in the power of conservative care and will exhaust non-surgical options first.
Don’t shrug off an ankle sprain. Properly care for your injured ankle, and it will take care of you, providing many more years of healthy, happy, active living. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Todd Stevens, please call 609-924-8333 for Princeton or 908-687-5757 for Roselle Park.