Have you sprained an ankle? If you have, you are not alone. It has been estimated that about 25,000 people seek medical help for sprained ankles every day. These people flood into emergency rooms and urgent care centers looking for help for this common injury.
The first thing to help when you have sprained an ankle, or any muscle, is to understand what kind of injury you have. When you injure a ligament, you have a sprain. Ligaments connect bones and support the joints in your body. The most common ligaments to be injured are those that support the ankle joint. When you damage a ligament, the symptoms that normally send people for medical help include pain, instability, swelling and bruising.
When people sprain an ankle there are several levels of sprain. When people seek out medical help, experts have the following three levels of injury:
- Mild injury: This is also called a grade one sprain. The ligament has experienced some mild stretching and there is no joint instability.
- Moderate injury: This is a grade two sprain. There is a partial rupture or tear of the ligament but there is not enough to cause joint instability.
- Severe injury: This is a grade three sprain. This includes a complete treat of the ligament and there will be significant instability.
The main goals of the medical help that is given for an ankle sprain is to keep the swelling down, reduce the pain level and get the ankle back to its normal state as fast as can be done. For most people, when there has just been mild tearing or stretching of the ligament, it will heal on its own. If there has been a large tear or rupture, it may cause some scar tissue to be left in the joint.
How do doctors treat a sprained ankle?
There are two acronyms that are used when it comes to treating many muscle sprains and strains. The first acronym is PRICE, which breaks down to protect, rest, ice, compression and elevation. The other acronym is HARM, this breaks down to heat, alcohol, running and massage. The first 48 to 72 hours after the injury has been sustained is the most critical in treating a sprained ankle. During this time, weight bearing on the injured ankle needs to be measured. For some people, over the counter and prescription pain medication may be needed.
HARM refers to the the things that should be avoided for the first two to three days. This means you should avoid heat, drinking alcohol, running on the ankle and massage of any kind. PRICE is the acronym for what you should do to help the joint begin to heal. More than any medical help, these things can make a difference in how an ankle heals.
- Protect the ankle from being injured any more. Using a brace or bandage can help keep the joint protected.
- Rest the ankle. For the first two to three days, you should stay off of the joint as much as possible. Some people opt for the use of crutches. This keeps you from doing more damage to the joint. This first 48 to 72 hour time period can be very important to get the healing process started and not set it back by hurting it more.
- Put ice on the ankle. Ice is very helpful to keep swelling down. You should take your ice pack (or frozen peas), wrap it in a towel and apply it to the hurt ankle for between ten minutes and a half an hour. The ice or frozen peas should never be placed directly on the skin as this can cause damage to the skin. You can press the cold pack onto the ankle in a gentle manner. The cold pack will inhibit blood from flowing into the area and thereby reduce the amount of swelling, bruising and pain. This should be repeated every few hours for the best result.
- Compress the ankle with a bandage. This will also help with the swelling of the joint. Take care to not make the bandage too tight.
- Elevate the ankle. This is another way to keep your swelling down to a minimum.
If you take care of it, your sprained ankle will heal sooner than you think.
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