What is a Sprained Ankle and How Do I Treat It?
Date Created: 06/28/2015
By Nicholas Dodaro, M.D., ABEM, FACEP
Sprained ankles can be both painful and annoying. They are common and are caused by simple actions like tripping, falling or from an activity like running or even walking. When I was growing up, I was constantly spraining my ankle while playing on uneven surfaces.
Sprained ankles can have levels of severity. Sometimes it’s a weird, sore sensation that quickly dissipates. Then there are times when the sprain is more severe, leading to swelling and becoming difficult to put any weight on it. If the sprain is really severe you may hear a popping noise when the sprain occurs.
When you sprain your ankle, one or more ligaments on the outer area of your ankle were over-stretched or torn. Sprains must be taken seriously - if not treated properly, they can lead to long-term problems.
The ankle is either rolled inward (inversion sprain) or outward (eversion sprain). Inversion sprains are the most common type of sprain and cause pain along the outer side of the ankle. If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort along the inner side of that ankle, it may mean there is a more serious injury to the ligaments that support your arch. If this is the case, then it’s imperative you visit a doctor.
If you’re unable to walk or experience a tremendous amount of pain, it’s important to seek medical attention as a sprain can be difficult to differentiate from a broken bone. A simple x-ray may help determine if you have a sprain or something more severe.
How Do I Treat a Sprained Ankle?
There’s a common pneumonic device to use if you feel that you’ve experienced a sprain. It’s called R.I.C.E, which stands for:
- Rest your ankle by not walking on it and limit putting any weight on it.
- Ice your ankle to keep down the swelling, but you should never put ice directly on the skin. Wrap it up in a towel or pillowcase and do not ice for more than 20 minutes at a time to avoid frostbite.
- Compression can help control swelling as well as immobilize and support your injury. You can use an elastic bandage to wrap your ankle to help prevent swelling.
- Elevate the foot by reclining and propping it up above the waist or heart as needed.
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