Sprained ankles are extremely common injuries, especially in a place like the Magic Valley, where we have an active outdoor community. But don’t let that stop you from getting help. Sprains may be common, but they’re also extremely serious injuries that demand immediate medical treatment and attentive rehabilitation.
Ankle sprains that do not heal can develop into chronic pain and instability or post-traumatic arthritis, and increase the likelihood of future sprains. They may also be “hiding” an ankle fracture.
What Is an Ankle Sprain?
When two or more bones come together at a joint, they rely on fibrous connective tissues called ligaments to hold them together. Ligaments attach bone to bone (unlike tendons, which attach muscles to bones), and they stabilize and protect the joint by prohibiting excessive motion.
When one or more of the ligaments that support your ankle joint get stretched too far, they can tear or even snap. This typically happens as the result of a sudden fall or twisting motion. Ankle sprains are extremely common as a result of athletic competition, as well as slipping or stumbling from an uneven surface (curb, stairs, hiking trail, ice, etc.)
How Serious Is My Ankle Sprain?
All ankle sprains are serious injuries worthy of your full attention. However, relatively mild ones can sometimes be treated at home (after visiting us for a primary evaluation), while serious sprains may require casting or surgery to repair.
- Grade 1 sprains only feature slight stretching and microscopic tearing of the tendon fibers. You may experience mild tenderness, swelling, and pain.
- Grade 2 sprains feature at least one larger partial tear. Pain, swelling, and tenderness are more prominent, and the ankle might feel abnormally loose if manipulated in a certain way.
- Grade 3 sprains result when there is a complete tear of a ligament. Severe pain, swelling, tenderness, and even bruising are often present. The ankle may be significantly unstable.
How Are Ankle Sprains Treated?
As soon as you suffer any kind of ankle injury, the first step is to stop what you’re doing, get off your feet, and administer any necessary first aid. Remember RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation: Avoid bearing weight or excessive ankle motion, and use ice, compression, and elevation to reduce pain and contain swelling.
Next, make an appointment to visit Canyon Foot + Ankle as soon as possible, even if you believe you only have a Grade 1 sprain. While it’s very possible you may not need advanced treatment, you don’t want to gamble with your long-term ankle health and quality of life. We’ll be able to accurately assess the location, nature, and severity of the sprain and make sure you get all the information and treatment you need to heal and recover quickly.
Mild sprains can often be treated at home by continuing RICE therapy, along with over-the-counter painkillers to manage discomfort.
More serious sprains will require a little extra intervention from us. We may need to equip you with a cast, book, or brace to keep the ankle immobilized and supported as it heals. Surgery may be necessary in cases of extreme tearing, or if you have had a history of ankle sprains leading to instability. However, most of the time, even severe sprains can be treated conservatively.
We can also provide advanced therapies such as the MLS laser, which can greatly accelerate healing and shorten the recovery window significantly. This safe and effective regenerative technology has really provided a revolutionary option for treatment and rehab, and is often chosen by athletes and professionals who need to be back on their feet in the shortest possible timeframe.
During the time you’re off your feet waiting for your ligaments to heal, supporting muscles, bones, and tendons can weaken. That’s why rehabilitation is so important after any ankle sprain. Our team will guide you through a rehab plan with exercises designed to get you back to full strength and motion quickly.
If you want your sprain to heal quickly and properly while minimizing your risk of long-term complications, contact Canyon Foot + Ankle today. Complete our online contact form, or call us directly at the office most convenient for your location: (208) 733-0436 in Twin Falls or (208) 678-2727 in Burley.