Sprained ankles are one of the most common traumatic injuries we see at Rainier Foot & Ankle Associates. So common, in fact, that many people often underestimate how severe sprains can truly be—especially if they aren’t treated promptly and carefully.
If you suspect you may have suffered an injury to your ankle, don’t leave things up to chance! Stop what you’re doing, begin RICE therapy (see below for more details on that) and give us a call right away. In addition to guidance and advice for even a mild sprain, we also provide emergency trauma care for severe sprains—frequently on the same day, sooner than a trip to urgent care (and with an ankle sports injury expert providing your treatment).
What Is an Ankle Sprain?
Your ankle joint is held together by several tough, fibrous bands of tissue called ligaments, which are responsible for keeping the joint stable and preventing any kind of excessive or unnatural movement. However, a sudden twisting, rolling, or turning of the ankle in an unexpected way can hyperextend and injure any (or several) of the ligaments.
Sprains are often classified by the severity of the damage:
- Grade I: Ligament fibers have been overstretched and damaged, but not torn.
- Grade II: Ligament has been partially torn.
- Grade III: Ligament has completely ruptured.
Ankle Sprain Symptoms
The symptoms of a sprain can vary depending on the location and severity of the injury.
Milder sprains may only cause tenderness, stiffness, and slight swelling in the area. You’ll probably still be able to put weight on your foot and walk around without too much pain, although this is still not recommended!
More severe sprains will, naturally, also be more painful. Walking may become difficult, if not impossible. You may also notice more severe swelling and bruising, and the ankle may feel loose or unstable.
Why You Should Talk to a Doctor About ANY Suspected Sprain
If you’ve rolled or twisted your ankle and you suspect you may have a sprain—even a very mild one—it is strongly recommended that you give us a call.
The good news is that Grade I sprains can often be treated at home. But it will be critically important to protect the ankle and complete the right sequence of treatment steps at the right times to ensure quick and complete healing.
Sprains that do not fully heal properly can increase your risk of:
- Suffering additional, more severe sprains in the future
- Developing chronic, persistent instability in your ankle
- Developing post-traumatic arthritis in the ankle joint
If you get off your feet and call us as soon as you suspect there may be a problem, we can guide you on the next steps you should take—which may mean scheduling an appointment with our office for a closer evaluation.
How Are Ankle Sprains Treated—First Aid
First things first: if you suspect a sprain, no matter the severity, begin RICE therapy immediately:
- Rest your ankle. Try not to walk on it at all for a few days unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Ice your ankle for 20-30 minutes at a time, up to 3-4 times per day. Begin your first icing session as soon as possible after the injury. (Do not apply ice directly to your skin; wrap it in a thin towel first to avoid damaging your skin.)
- Compress the ankle using compression dressings or wraps, if you have them (and know how to use them), to keep the ankle supported and immobilized.
- Elevate your ankle, ideally above your chest level, for a couple of days.
As soon as possible after suffering your injury, make us your first call. Quite frequently we are able to accommodate same-day appointments, and can provide fast and effective treatment even in severe cases where a more aggressive intervention is required.
How Ankle Sprains Are Treated—Additional Steps
While RICE therapy alone may be sufficient for a mild enough sprain, some injuries require additional treatment.
At Rainier Foot & Ankle Associates, we provide a wide variety of treatment options—including several advanced nonsurgical therapies—and can recommend a treatment protocol based on the specifics of your injury, as well as your personal lifestyle goals.
Treatments may include:
- Pain-relieving medications
- Protecting or immobilizing the ankle via elastic bandage, sports tape, a brace, a walking boot, or a cast (depending on the severity of the sprain).
- Physical therapy exercises to strengthen and restore full range of motion (once the injury has sufficiently healed).
- Advanced treatments such as MLS laser therapy or amniotic tissue injections to help control pain, reduce swelling, and accelerate the natural tissue healing process.
- In rare cases, surgery to repair or reconstruct a severely torn or chronically unstable ligament.
Preventing the Next Sprain
It’s an unfortunate truth that those who have already suffered one or more ankle sprains in the past are much more likely to sprain their ankle again. That’s why treatment alone is not sufficient!
Our team will also help you understand the factors that may have contributed to your original sprain, and take appropriate measures to help you lower your risk of future injury. This may include things like:
- Wearing the correct shoes for your activities
- Stretching and warming up before and after exercise
- Making ankle strengthening and range of motion exercises part of your regular routine
- Avoiding significant changes or increases to your exercise routine, but instead making only gradual changes to give your body a chance to adjust
- Wearing custom orthotics, bracing, and/or taping to accommodate any biomechanical problems that may be contributing to your risk of ankle sprains
Get the Care You Need for a Sprained Ankle
It bears repeating—if you don’t take your sprained ankle seriously now, you may end up regretting it down the road.
Our experienced team can help ensure you recover quickly and completely, so you can get back to your favorite activities. To contact our office in Enumclaw, call (360) 761-1285 or connect with us online today.