Treating a Sprained Ankle

runWhether you’re walking on an uneven surface or are just uncoordinated, a sprained ankle can happen quick. In fact, more than 25,000 people sprain an ankle every day! From athletes to non-athletes, children to adults, anyone can suffer a sprained ankle and it’s important to know what to do when it happens.

What is Sprained Ankle?

The ligaments of the ankle hold the ankle bones and joint in position. They protect the joint from abnormal movements, in particular twisting, turning, and rolling of the foot.

Ligaments are elastic and therefore can bend to a certain degree. However, when a ligament is forced to stretch beyond its normal range, this is when a sprained ankle can occur. A severe sprain can cause actual tearing of the elastic fibers.

As a result of these tears, the ankle may swell and bruise. When you place weight on the area, you may feel pain or discomfort. Blood vessels, cartilage, and tendons can also be damaged as a result of the sprained ankle.

Symptoms of a sprained ankle include:

  • Ankle pain, from mild to severe
  • Swelling
  • A popping sound during the injury
  • Trouble moving the ankle
  • Bruising
  • Instability of the ankle (in severe sprains)

Do I Need Surgery For a Sprained Ankle?

Surgical treatment for a sprained ankle is extremely rare. Surgery is reserved for injuries that fail to respond to nonsurgical treatment, and for persistent instability after months of rehabilitation and non-surgical treatment.

Surgical options include:

  • Arthroscopy
    • A surgeon looks inside the joint to see if there are any loose fragments of bone or cartilage, or part of the ligament caught in the joint.
  • Reconstruction
    • A surgeon repairs the torn ligament with stitches or suture, or uses other ligaments

It is important to schedule an appointment with a foot and ankle specialist as soon as possible following a sprained ankle to minimize discomfort, recovery and long term effects.

To diagnose an ankle sprain, your doctor at South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine will give you a thorough physical exam. You may also need X-rays to rule out broken bones. An MRI may show details of the ligament damage, but doesn’t need to be done in every case.

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