As many as 2 million Americans sprain their ankles every year. The severity of these sprains varies; some people experience minimal tenderness and swelling while others have significant swelling, tenderness, and instability.
Regardless of the perceived severity of your sprain, have an expert, like ours here at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists, examine your ankle. You can’t always tell the degree of sprain that you experienced, and without proper care, a sprained ankle can heal incorrectly and lead to chronic ankle instability.
Even if it feels OK to walk on a sprained ankle, we advise against it until you’ve been to our office and received treatment and a supportive device. Here’s why.
A sprained ankle occurs when your foot rolls, twists, or turns in a way that pushes a ligament beyond its normal range. A ligament attaches bone to bone.
Sprained ankles are graded in terms of their severity. Grade 1 is the most minor with microscopic tearing of fibers and Grade 3 is the most severe with a full tear of the ligament.
Any grade of sprain requires rest and rehabilitation to heal properly.
Ankle sprains usually heal well, if given a chance to rest. For most people, the healing process takes 4-6 weeks.
We here at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists recommend the RICE protocol, which involves:
The length of time you should rest your ankle depends on the grade of your sprain. Understandably, a Grade 1 sprain recovers more quickly than a Grade 3 sprain.
Regardless of the grade of your sprain, though, your healing goes through several phases. For the first week or so following your injury, the goal of treatment is to rest, protect the ankle, and reduce swelling and pain.
In the next week or two, you focus on restoring flexibility, range of motion, and strength. In the last phase of healing, which can last weeks or months, you gradually return to activities that don’t require turning or twisting your ankle.
Overtime, we add back in activities that require sudden turns, like those you do in sports like tennis or soccer.
We understand that the prescription of “no walking” is a little unrealistic. We may provide you with a cast boot, crutches, or an air splint to help you get around while your ankle heals.
These devices immobilize the ankle joint while you walk; the immobilization gives the tissues a chance to heal.
In addition to the RICE protocol, our team at Maryland Orthopedic Specialists may also offer other treatments to alleviate pain from a sprained ankle and help you recover full movement.
Depending on the grade of your sprain, you may benefit from:
We also offer physical therapy to help you gradually regain mobility, reintroduce weight-bearing activities, and avoid stiffness.
Physical therapy includes active range-of-motion exercises that involve no resistance as well as proprioception training. We prescribe water exercises when movement on land is too painful.
If you suspect you’ve sprained your ankle, get the care you need so you heal properly and avoid long-term complications. Call our Bethesda or Germantown, Maryland, office at 301-515-0900 or set up an appointment here to get a comprehensive evaluation.