A sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments, which connect adjacent bones and provide stability to a joint. An ankle sprain is a common injury that occurs with a sudden fall or twisting injury such as when landing in an awkward position after a jump. Ankle sprains often occur during sports that require jumping or running on an uneven surface. Ankle sprains can cause pain, swelling, tenderness, bruising, stiffness, and inability to walk or bear weight on the ankle.
The diagnosis of an ankle sprain is usually made by evaluating the history of injury and physical examination of the ankle. X-rays of your ankle may be needed to determine whether a fracture is present. The most common treatment recommended for an ankle sprain is rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE).
- Rest : “Relative rest” is preferred over complete rest for ankle sprains. Moving the ankle and even bearing weight as soon as it is not painful is encouraged.
- Ice : An ice pack should be applied over the injured area for up to 3 days after the injury. You can use a cold pack crushed ice wrapped in a towel, or bag of frozen peas. Never place ice directly over the skin. Ice packs help reduce swelling and relieve pain.
- Compression : Compression of the injured area helps to reduce swelling and bruising. This is usually accomplished by using an elastic wrap for a few days or weeks after the injury.
- Elevation : Place the injured ankle above your heart level to reduce swelling. Elevation of an injured leg can be done for about 2 to 3 hours per day or more.
Dr. Driscoll may also use a brace or splint to help control pain initially. Anti-inflammatory pain medications may be prescribed to help reduce the pain and control inflammation.
During your recovery, rehabilitation exercises are recommended to strengthen and improve range of motion in your ankle. You may need to use a brace or wrap to support and protect your ankle during sports activities. Avoid pivoting and twisting movements for 2 to 3 weeks for moderate to severe sprains. Rehabilitation exercises and, in some cases, use of an ankle brace may reduce your risk of recurrent ankle sprains in the future.