When (and Why) to Seek Care for a Sprained Ankle

When (and Why) to Seek Care for a Sprained Ankle

You twist your ankle, and the pain and swelling come on fairly quickly. You’re likely dealing with a sprained ankle, and what you do next can make a big difference. Let’s take a look.

Each year in the United States, about two million people incur an acute ankle sprain, and up to 70% of these people go on to develop residual physical disability. And we’re just referring to reported ankle sprains — we suspect many more sprains go unreported each year.

While there are different degrees of ankle sprains, ignoring even the most minor can lead to trouble down the road. To underscore the importance of prompt attention for any ankle sprain, Dr. Rajiv Sood and the team here at Spine & Orthopedic Center present a few points to consider when you’re dealing with an ankle sprain.

Behind an ankle sprain

A sprain of any kind is a condition in which you stretch or tear ligaments, the soft tissues that attach bone to bone. In your ankles, several ligaments keep the bones together, but 90% of ankle sprains occur when the foot collapses inward, affecting the lateral ligaments on the outside of your ankle.

No matter which ligaments are involved, there are three grades of ankle sprains:

  • Grade 1 — stretching and microscopic tearing
  • Grade 2 — partial tearing
  • Grade 3 — complete tearing

Now that we understand the mechanics of an ankle sprain let’s take a look at your next steps.

What to do if you suspect an ankle sprain

If you suspect you’ve sprained your ankle, it’s very important that you implement the RICE method as soon as possible, which includes:

  • Rest — get off your ankle
  • Ice — put ice on your ankle for about 20 minutes each hour you’re awake for the first 24 hours
  • Compression — wrap your ankle to prevent too much swelling
  • Elevation — keep your ankle higher than your heart as much as you can

Executing the RICE method for the first 24 hours is a great way to manage initial pain and swelling. If your ankle is extremely painful and you can’t bear any weight on it, we suggest that you don’t wait 24 hours to get help.

24 hours after your ankle sprain

If you’ve tried the RICE method and the swelling and pain in your ankle haven’t improved, or they’ve gotten worse, and you’re having trouble bearing weight on the joint, it’s time to seek our help. 

Sprained ankles that aren’t addressed properly from the get-go can go on to give you heaps of trouble down the road. For example, one study reports that up to 40% of ankle sprains transition to chronic ankle stability. We’re also concerned about post-traumatic arthritis in your ankle.

Instead of dealing with persistent and ongoing ankle problems, we can handle the issue correctly the first time around.

If we confirm that you have a sprained ankle, we will get you started on a treatment plan befitting the extent of your sprain, which might include one or more of the following:

If we find complete tears in your ligaments that might benefit from surgical repair, we point you in the right direction.

No matter your treatment plan, our goal is to help you weather the immediate and acute sprain and avoid problems down the road.

For top-notch care for your sprained ankle, please contact our Jonesboro, Georgia, office to schedule an appointment.