If you’ve twisted your ankle or sprained it, you can sometimes wait it out at home. Some self-care measures for a sprained ankle work well to manage the condition yourself. It’s a common trauma that can get worse if left alone.
However, other times you have to seek professional care. Following a few guidelines, you can tell that you need professional care for your sprained ankle. The providers at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine offer this guide to help you know when to seek professional care.
What causes ankle sprains
Sprained ankles are incredibly common. It’s easy for this injury to happen. You can roll, turn, or twist your ankles with a very simple amount of ease.
If you roll your ankle inward, this is called an eversion sprain. This injury affects the ligaments in your ankle, which stabilize your ankle.
If you roll your ankle outward, it’s called an inversion sprain. An eversion or an inversion sprain will affect your ability to stay on your feet because the ligaments are strong. When those ligaments are inflamed, you will have a rough healing period.
The symptoms of a sprained ankle
You can usually tell the symptoms of a sprained ankle pretty easily. The symptoms include the following:
- Pain, especially when you stand or put weight on your ankle
- Tenderness when you touch the ankle
- Limited range of motion
- A popping sensation at the time of the injury
You will almost certainly know it if you have sprained your ankle. The real thing to learn is whether or not you’ll need medical attention,
How to care for a sprained ankle
Dealing with a sprained ankle is sometimes managed well enough at home. The first thing you may want to do is to take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen sodium (Aleve®).
You can also try the RICE method. It stands for the following:
Stay off your feet as much as possible. Rest is sometimes a bad word, but not in this context. Don’t try to push through the pain; it can make it worse.
You can always use ice packs to help reduce the swelling of your ankle. Using ice packs or even packages of frozen vegetables may work to relieve your pain. Use it for 20-30 minutes every 2-3 hours for the first two days.
Wrapping your ankle with a compression bandage may help to stabilize the joint. Wrap your ankle with an Ace® bandage for 48-72 hours after the injury. Be sure to wrap your ankle tightly, but not too tightly.
Put your feet up after you sprain your ankle. Doing so will help to relieve the swelling.
Three signs you need to seek medical attention
Sometimes, you can do the self-care mentioned above, but you still need help. Here are the signs that you should seek medical attention.
It’s not getting better
In general, your ankle should be healing within three days. If it’s not, it’s a sign that your damage may be more severe and needs more attention.
If you’ve had a previous ankle sprain or injury
If you’ve had a previous ankle injury or sprain, you’re at greater risk of it happening again. You should make an appointment if this isn’t your first sprained ankle.
Extreme symptoms, especially pain
You may have done more damage if you’re in extreme pain or if your ankle is especially swollen. You may have a more serious sprain, suggesting that you have partially or completely torn your ligament.
When your ankle sprain is severe, you may need extra help, including a permanent cast. When you come in for an appointment, we may do tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computerized tomography (CT) scan. If you have a sprained ankle, you should contact the providers at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine or request an appointment online.