Around two million ankle sprains are reported each year in the United States, and it’s a very common reason for a visit to the emergency department. However, the fact that ankle sprains are common doesn’t mean that they aren’t serious. No matter how inconvenient, it’s crucial to give your ankle the time to heal properly.
The highly trained experts at Orthocenter encourage our patients who experience sports injuries, including ankle sprains, to take the time necessary to heal in order to avoid a longer term and potentially chronic problem. Foot and ankle care requires pain management, a carefully tailored treatment plan, and in the case of ankle sprain, complete healing before returning to your usual workout schedule.
What happens during a sprain
Your ankle is a complex joint, and three ligaments help keep it stable. When you sprain your ankle, one of those ligaments is stretched too far or even torn.
Sprains are categorized based on how severe they are and assigned one of three grades. A mild sprain that involves a stretched ligament is a Grade 1 sprain. Your ankle may feel tender or a bit stiff, but you can still walk.
A Grade 2 sprain is considered moderate and one or more of your ligaments is partially torn. In this case, you experience swelling, worse pain, and you won’t want to stand on that foot.
A Grade 3 sprain is severe and involves one more completely torn ligaments. A severe sprain is very painful, you can’t walk at all or even move your ankle, and it will be swollen.
The length of time you need to recover is generally correlated with how severe your sprain is. Some people have ankle pain for as long as a year after a Grade 3 sprain.
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation — the well-known RICE protocol — is the first line of treating a sprain, regardless of severity. If it’s a mild sprain, you will most likely be feeling fine and able to return to your normal activities in a day or two.
For a more severe sprain with swelling and pain, you should see a specialist. In some cases, you may need bracing, physical therapy, or even surgery.
From acute to chronic
An injury that heals in a short amount of time, around six weeks or so, is considered an acute injury. When the problems persist for longer, it’s a chronic injury. Ankle sprains are notorious for becoming chronic problems. Experts estimate that as many as 70% of people who sprain their ankle develop a chronic issue like chronic ankle instability.
There’s evidence that spraining your ankle once increases the likelihood you’ll sprain it again. Getting expert advice, doing the necessary work to strengthen your ankle and other areas associated with risk of ankle sprains, like your gluteal muscles or your core, are all important steps in protecting yourself from developing an ongoing problem.
Talk to an expert
If you’ve sprained your ankle, schedule an appointment at any of the convenient Orthocenter locations. We’re happy to help you regain your stability so that you can return to your regular activities, including your workouts.