Sprained Ankles, and How to Cope With Them

January 24th, 2018 Becki Andrus

If you suffer from a sprained ankle, recovery time may take longer than you think. Talk to one of our specialists at either Orthopedic Associates two locations and be on your way to feeling better today!

Sprained Ankles, and How to Cope With Them

A twisted ankle isn’t fun to deal with. You take a wrong step coming down the stairs, and now you have a pain every time you walk. It can last a couple minutes or a couple hours. A twisted ankle certainly isn’t the worst thing that can happen, though. Sometimes, an even worse step or fall leads to a sprain, and that pain is much worse.

You may live without ever spraining your ankle, but the injury is fairly common: 25,000 people in the United States sprain their ankle every year.

What, Exactly, Is a Sprained Ankle?

Much like a twisted ankle, a sprained ankle occurs when one of your ankles is twisted, bent, or turned in a way that it shouldn’t be. While they’re often associated with sports, they can happen at almost any time. Stairs are a major offender, but any awkward step can lead to a sprain. Men between 18 and 24 are at the highest risk for ankle sprain, likely because they most actively play sports like basketball, but it can happen to anyone at anytime. For women, ankle sprains happen most commonly when they’re over 30 — the reasoning isn’t quite clear, but that is the fact of the matter. Ankle sprains and fractures are the most common severe ankle injuries, so they’re something to be aware of.

A fracture, of course, is an acute injury to the bone. In contrast, a sprained ankle is the tearing or overuse of the ligaments and musculature in the ankle. The two injuries are very similar at the base level. Both will cause sudden and severe pain, swelling, bruising, and an inability or near inability to walk on the ankle. You can typically differentiate the two by trying to move the ankle. If your ankle twists, though with pain, then you are dealing with a fracture. If your ankle feels stiff or can’t be twisted and turned, you are dealing with a sprain. While a sprain can be treated at home, it will never hurt to get attention from a medical professional. Because a sprain is so easily mistaken for a fracture, you should get the ankle checked when possible, even if it isn’t needed urgently. You should also seek attention if the ankle is sprained, but the area around the ankle becomes warm. This may still be a sprain, but it’s also possible that you are dealing with tendonitis.

How Can I Prevent a Sprained Ankle?

The most effective way to prevent a sprained ankle would be to never walk. Of course, that isn’t possible for many of us. Instead, we need to start by being aware of the risk. If you have had prior ankle issues, you are at a much higher risk for sprain than someone who has not experienced ankle injury. Over time, prior sprains will affect you less, but the same is not true of tendonitis or fracture. If you’ve had an ankle injury recently, avoid anything that may add strain.

If you are performing activity that may cause ankle issues, the best way to prevent sprain is to look for shoes that provide ankle support. Typically, dedicated basketball shoes or running shoes will be great for this. Of course, orthopedic shoes will be, as well. Old shoes can cause problems, so be cautious. If there are holes in your soles, your shoes could have the best ankle support of all time and it would put you at risk. You should always take the time to stretch, as well. You don’t need to sit through an entire yoga class, but warming up the muscles before a workout or game will help tremendously.

Avoid uneven, slippery surfaces. Water, gravel, and grass can all cause problems. Mud is a risk factor as well. If your foot gets stuck in the mud, getting it unstuck can lead to sprain. If you have balance issues, avoid any risky exercises, or consult a doctor before participating.

How Can I Treat a Sprained Ankle?

Much like a wet telephone, the proper way to treat a sprained ankle is with RICE. You won’t be putting your ankle in a bag of dry rice, but instead going through a four part process.

R is for rest. Walk as little as possible, and use crutches or other support when you do.

I is for ice. Put ice or a cold, wet washcloth on the ankle for 48 to 72 hours.

C is for compression. A protective brace, and an elastic, compression wrap will help reduce swelling and pain, especially while walking.

E is for elevation. Elevating your ankle above your heart level for 2 to 3 hours a day, especially while sleeping, will significantly reduce swelling.

If you experience pain despite using this treatment method for 3-5 days, you should seek the help of an orthopedic doctor. You are likely dealing with something much worse than a sprain.

1 comment

  1. Thanks for the information on sprained ankles. I’m pretty sure that I sprained mine while taking in groceries yesterday. It hurt really bad though, so I’m afraid it might be worse. If the swelling doesn’t go down with rest, ice, compression, and elevation, should I see a doctor?

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