You probably know what a broken bone is, but you may not be aware that the ligaments (the very things that hold your bones in place) can also take on damage. When that happens, you could very well be dealing with a sprain. An ankle sprain is one of the most common ligament injuries there is. All it takes is an awkward twist that takes your ankle beyond its range of motion for this to happen. Fortunately, most sprains heal on their own, but you need to be able to tell if that’s what you have before you start the rehab process. Today we’re going to cover several questions related to dealing with sprained ankles, so if you are interested, please keep reading.
What causes a sprained ankle?
A sprained ankle is often the result of moving your foot in such a way that it takes the ligaments beyond their full range of motion – causing them to tear, at least partially. Sprains usually happen after a fall, walking on uneven ground, or doing sports; For example, it’s a fairly common injury in football, basketball, and other high intensity activities. Now, remember, injuries are common – but that shouldn’t prevent you from an active lifestyle! The more physical activity you do, the stronger you get which means that you can reduce the risk of injury, including ligament issues.
Are there different degrees of ankle sprains?
Yes, there are three different grades of ankle sprains:
- Grade 1 – Mild tearing or stretching of the ligament, mild tenderness, swelling, and stiffness. The ankle feels stable and walking is generally possible with little pain.
- Grade 2 – It feels somewhat stable, but the damaged areas are tender to the touch, and walking is painful. There is a mild sprain, and an incomplete tear with moderate ankle pain, swelling and bruising.
- Grade 3 – In this case, there’s a complete rupture of the ligament(s) with swelling and bruising. Because the ankle gives out and the pain is severe, walking is unlikely.
How does a person know that their ankle is sprained?
The telltale signs of a sprained ankle are fairly simple to look out for. They are:
- swelling around the ankle
- pain and/or tenderness in the ankle area
- restricted range of motion
- loss of strength
Keep in mind, it’s important not to mistake a sprained ankle with anything else, for example, a fractured bone. One way to differentiate between the two, is to remember the sound your ankle made when the injury happened. For example, a “cracking” noise typically means that you’ve broken a bone, while a “popping” sound usually indicates a sprain or ligament tear. Mild sprains will be nowhere near as painful as a fracture, but they can be annoying nonetheless. A complete tear of the ankle’s ligaments will be extremely painful and may take away your ability to move your foot around. Unfortunately, every situation is different so it’s may be hard to pinpoint on your own. See next question.
When should I see a doctor for a sprained ankle?
You should always talk to a doctor if you suspect that you have a sprained ankle, regardless if its mild or more severe. While most sprains are mild and nothing to worry about, a doctor will be able to help you with any doubts you may have and get you on the fastest path to recovery.
How can you treat a sprained ankle?
When it comes to sprains, the early stages are the most painful. The best way to deal with mild and moderate sprains is to rest. The second best thing is icing the injury. Icing your ankle will help stop the swelling and numb the area which will give you some relief from the pain. Ice your injury in the early stages, and compress your ankle using an elastic bandage. Even better, consider using something like our Ankle Ice Wrap with Compression which takes care of the icing and compression at the same time:
Whenever possible, elevate your foot to reduce inflammation; you can put your foot on top of a cushion or two when you go to sleep at night. Your body has an incredible way of dealing with injuries, and as long as you let it do its job, you’ll be back to normal in no time. However, while your body heals itself, you should give it a fighting chance against the sprain by doing everything you can to give it the rest it needs. Yes, you have to walk every day, but the less you walk, the faster you’ll recover.
As you know, more severe sprains may require other solutions; at that point, you (with help from your doctor) will have to take more serious measures to rehab your ankle. This could include physiotherapy and in more extreme cases, surgery. Fortunately, severe ankle sprains are rare. If you have a sprained ankle, you probably have a few weeks’ worth of elevation and compression ahead of you – and then you’re back to normal.
Over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen should be more than enough to help you deal with the pain. If that doesn’t make the pain manageable, you should talk to your doctor about other alternatives.
How long does it take for a sprained ankle to heal?
Mild sprains can take one to three weeks to heal. More serious sprains will take anywhere from one to two months to heal. Severe cases usually require ankle surgery to heal; at that point, you should let your doctor tell you how long it’ll be before you’re fully recovered. On average, you’re looking at two to five months of rest after the surgery, although every case is different.
When it comes to mild or moderate sprains, you may be able to walk normally after a short amount of time, but you still may have to take it easy unless you want to reset your injury. For example, a mild sprain may take a week to heal, but that’s not when you want to test the full strength of your ankle. Ease back into walking, or your other physical activities. Giving it some extra time, and going slowly at first, may be the difference between injuring yourself once again and fully being yourself once again.
Is it OK to walk with a sprained ankle?
You should try to avoid putting weight on your injured foot as much as possible. A sprained ankle will take time to heal and the more you use it, the longer it’ll take for you to be fully functional. Ideally, you’ll avoid walking on your own for as long as it takes. Crutches may be necessary. Unfortunately, most people will not use crutches for a mild sprain. In that case, try to rest as much as possible and elevate your foot after walking. If you feel pain or discomfort, you should stop walking immediately.
In case we haven’t stressed it enough… resting your foot is key to a speedy recovery! If you can’t stop yourself from walking around, consider using crutches for the first while, to at least take some of the load off your injured ankle. The pain will go away faster than if you continue to walk as you normally do. If you have any tips or tricks on how to deal with an ankle injury, please use the comment box below and share your experience with us! Until next time.
Disclaimer – We aren’t doctors here at SimplyJnJ. The information that we post on our Web site, such as the information above about dealing with sprained ankles, is done for informational purposes only. Do not take it as medical advice. Always consult a medical practitioner when you are experiencing pain.