When the ankle is twisted severely, either the ligaments or the bone must give way. If the ligaments give way, they may be stretched (strained), partially torn (sprained), or completely torn (torn ligaments). If the ligaments don’t give way, one of the bones around the ankle will break (fracture).
For practical purposes, the immediate attention of the doctor is necessary only when the injury has been severe enough to cause obvious fracture to the bones around the ankle or to cause a completely torn ligament which is indicated by a deformed joint with abnormal motion.
The typical ankle sprain swells either around the bony bump at the outside of the ankle or about 2 inches (5cm) in front of and below it. The amount of swelling doesn’t differentiate among sprains, tears and fractures. The common chip fractures around the ankle often cause less swelling than a sprain. Sprains and torn ligaments usually swell quickly because there is bleeding into the tissue around the ankle. The skin will turn blue-black in the area as the blood is broken down by the body.
A swollen ankle that isn’t deformed doesn’t need prolonged rest, casting or X-rays. Home treatment should be started promptly. Detection of any damage to the ligaments may be difficult immediately after the injury if much swelling is present. Because it is easier to do an adequate examination of the foot after the swelling has gone down and because no damage is done by resting a mild fracture or torn ligament, there is no need to rush to the doctor.
Pain tells you what to do and not to do. If it hurts, don’t do it. If pain prevents any standing on the ankle after 24 hours, see a doctor immediately. If little progress is being made so that pain makes weight-bearing difficult at 72 hours, see the doctor.
Home Treatment for Sprained Ankle
- Always remember the keyword R-I-C-E which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation
- Rest the ankle and keep it elevated.
- Apply ice in a towel to the injured area and leave it there for at least 30 minutes.
- If there is any evidence of swelling after the first 30 minutes, the apply ice for 30 minutes on and 15 minutes off through the next few hours.
- If the ankle stops being painful while elevated, you may cautiously try to put on weight on that leg.
- If the ankle is still painful when bearing weight, you should avoid putting weight on that leg for the first 24 hours.
- Heat may be applied, but only after 24 hours.
- An elastic bandage can help but won’t prevent reinjury if you resume full activity.
- Don’t stretch the bandage so that it’s very tight and interferes with blood circulation.
The ankle should feel relatively normal in about ten days. Be warned, however that full healing won’t take place for four to six weeks. If strenuous activity, such as organized athletics, is to be pursued during this time, the ankle should be taped by someone experienced in this technique
Filed Under: Common Injuries
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