Ankle sprains are a common orthopedic injury. In most cases, the problem is minor and will feel better with rest and at-home treatment within a few days. Some sprains can be severe and result in serious injury and chronic instability of the ankle. Knowing how to manage an ankle sprain can help you minimize ongoing problems with your ankle.
Even minor ankle sprains can swell dramatically. Your goal is to reduce as much of the swelling as possible. As soon as you can, keep your ankle elevated and ice the area. If ice causes additional pain, try icing your ankle for a few minutes at a time. Retail anti-inflammatory pain medications are useful to reduce pain and inflammation that occurs with ankle sprains. Keeping the swelling manageable can keep pain to a minimum but may also prevent exacerbation of the sprain. Unfortunately, significant swelling may cause damaged ligaments to rupture and will also delay the healing process.
Wrap Your Ankle
When a sprain is new, you will need an elastic bandage to add compression and stability to the area. The benefit of using an elastic bandage is it can expand and contract with your ankle if you do not wrap it too tightly. Compression can also prevent your ankle from swelling more. When you wrap your ankle, do not stretch the bandage because it will become tight if you experience additional swelling, which may cut off blood circulation.
Decide If Urgent Care Is Needed
It may be difficult to determine if a sprain is serious or will resolve with time. If you cannot put any weight on your ankle, it is best to seek emergency care. With x-rays, doctors can determine if the ligaments have torn and/or there is an accompanying fracture. In some cases, significant swelling may indicate bleeding, which also needs to be ruled out by a medical professional. In these situations, consultation with an orthopedic surgeon may be necessary to repair the damage from torn or severed ligaments and to control any bleeding.
If can put some weight on your ankle, you may want to take care of your ankle at home and wait to see if it improves. You should notice your ankle improving over a few days, with less pain and swelling. If not, a visit to your primary care doctor may be necessary.
How you treat an ankle sprain after it occurs can make a difference in your recovery. Addressing pain and swelling promptly can minimize exacerbation of minor ankle sprains.