What to Do About a Sprained Ankle

From a stumble on some steps to running around the bases, no one is immune to ankle sprains, which is why more than 23,000 people get medical care for a sprained ankle each day in the United States. This type of injury can range from mild to severe, and your first steps are important.

At Genesis Orthopaedic and Spine, our team of orthopaedic specialists provides expert care for ankle pain, which may be a result of a sports injury or simply trying to run an errand.

To help you figure out what steps to take when you suspect you’ve sprained your ankle, we explore the different grades of a sprained ankle, what you should do immediately following the injury, and whether you should seek our help.

Different degrees of a sprained ankle

An ankle sprain occurs when you stretch the ligaments in your ankle too far, which can cause damage. There are three grades of sprained ankles, which include:

Grade 1 sprain

With this type of injury, you stretch your ligaments, but they don’t incur any tears. The symptoms of a mild sprained ankle include pain, swelling, and tenderness.

Grade 2 sprain

If you partially tear the ligament(s) in your ankle, this is called a moderate sprain, or a grade 2 sprain. The symptoms of a grade 2 sprain include moderate pain, swelling, and tenderness, as well as some problems with bearing weight and a loss of range of motion.

Grade 3 sprain

This is the most severe type of sprained ankle, and it occurs when you have a full tear or rupture in your ligament. Symptoms of a grade 3 sprain include severe pain, swelling, and bruising. In addition, you’ll have loss of function and an inability to bear any weight.

What to do when you injure your ankle

The grade of ankle sprain usually reveals itself gradually, so you should always take the following steps when you injure your ankle:

This is also called the RICE method, and you should apply it both immediately and for the next 24-48 hours after your injury. 

First, get yourself set up in a chair or on the couch and wrap a compression bandage around your ankle to minimize swelling. Next, elevate your leg, which also helps with swelling. Then, apply ice to the area for about 15-20 minutes a time, about 3-5 times per day.

When to seek help

If, after applying the RICE method for 24-48 hours, you don’t see any improvement in your ankle, or it becomes worse and/or bruising develops, we urge you to come see us. This indicates that your sprained ankle may be moderate to severe, and you will likely benefit from one or more of our therapies, which include:

One of the primary reasons why it’s important to seek our help is that early, and correct, intervention can save you from ongoing problems down the road with ankle instability and arthritis.

For help with your sprained ankle, please contact our office in Westfield, New Jersey, to set up an appointment.

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