The ankle joint consists of the tibia, fibula, and talus. Surrounding these bones are fibrous structures called joint capsule and ligaments. When these soft tissue structures are overstretched and injured, the result is an “ankle sprain.” Common causes include sports injuries, tripping, or falling. Often people injure their ankle and do not seek treatment, thinking their injury is not serious enough to warrant care. This delay in treatment can cause problems in the ankle joint months to years later. It is always easier to treat lower extremity issues when they are new.
Ankle sprains are usually easily treated during the acute phase of the injury (i.e., within the first week or two). If the pain doesn’t go away with ice and rest, or if the pain persists beyond a few days, you must schedule an appointment with our physician immediately. Remember that time is of the essence; effectively treating these injuries is imperative to preventing long-term issues with the ankle joint.
Ankle sprains respond very well to conservative therapy, which includes
Rest—Rest the affected area. Stay off the injured foot or ankle to prevent injury. Walking, running, or playing sports on an injured foot or ankle may make the injury worse.
Ice—Applying ice to the affected area and reapply it for 15–20 minutes every three or four hours for the first 48 hours after injury. Ice can decrease inflammation.
Compression—Wrapping an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap) around the affected foot or ankle to decrease swelling.
Elevation—Elevate the affected extremity on a stack of pillows; ideally, your foot or ankle should be higher than your heart. Keeping your foot or ankle elevated also decreases swelling.
Immobilization—A CAM immobilization boot may be dispensed to prevent movement of the ankle joint, which aids in healing.
Bracing—Sometimes wearing an ankle brace for weeks to months after the injury can help long-term healing and prevent re-injury
Physical Therapy—Physical therapy can assist in healing the ankle joint and prevent re-injury.
In rare cases, surgical intervention may be required. These rare cases occur when the ligaments holding the ankle together are completely torn, causing the ankle joint to become very unstable. Surgery involves repairing those ligaments. Patients are often not permitted to put any weight on their surgically-repaired ankle for 6-8 weeks.