Sprained Ankle: From Injury to Recovery
After an ankle injury, it is common to be unsure about what to do or who to see about it. Here are some helpful answers to typical questions that arise after an accident to get you back on your feet and walking again in no time!
Post administered by Abid Rana, M.D.
The Initial Injury
The initial injury would typically occur from twisting, rolling, or turning your ankle in an awkward direction that it doesn't usually move in. Normally people think that it would take a certain amount of force for this to occur, but it could really be as simple as tripping going down the steps or experiencing a minor fall.
What to do First
Once the injury has happened, you may notice some rather alarming things happening to your foot. Firstly, you will be able to feel the pain almost instantly at touch, and putting weight on the foot will hurt as well. Visually, there will be some purple bruising, and the foot will begin to swell.
This would be a good time to get to the closest urgent care or hospital in order to get your foot assessed to see what the problem is. If you already have an ace bandage or some kind of immobilizing wrap, put this on to help avoid further injury. Also, avoid walking on it as much as possible.
While at the Doctor
Once you are checked in for your appointment, they will begin to look for the typical signs to see if your foot has a fracture or if it is simply sprained. The doctor will feel along the top and sides of your foot to catch any abnormalities in the flow from one segment to the next. A break in the line of the bone, like an indentation or bump, will suggest to them that a fracture has occurred. In that situation, an urgent care would be able to refer for an x-ray or the hospital would be able to perform it on site.
Another key point to check is the range of motion of the ankle. If there is limited mobility, or an interruption in the smooth roll of the ankle, this could be sign of a fracture or sprain. Visually, the doctor will check for the purple bruising and swelling. If there is a significant amount of pain, they will determine if it is a pointed pain or if it is widespread over an entire area. Additionally, the nerve sensation in the foot will be assessed to check for abnormalities.
We all know the road to recovery after an injury can feel LONG and at times NEVER ENDING, but don't worry. For an ankle sprain, the typical rehabilitation will take around 2 weeks depending on the gravity of the sprain, and after that, just take it easy and slowly go back to normal activities.
The first manner of business immediately after the sprain will be RICE, which is Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Do this repeatedly for the first few days. Also, accompany this with an anti-inflammatory, either local or internal, depending on your prescription. Once the swelling has gone down it is okay to stop icing, but continue to rest as often as possible.
Crutches are HIGHLY recommended to speed recovery, even though they are a bit pesky to use and annoying to have to deal with. After 2 weeks, the crutches will most likely be unnecessary, and you can resume light usage of your foot.
As usual, you will want to keep this light and easy for the few weeks following the initial injury. During the weeks of recovery, make sure to begin with light stretching to increase mobility of the ankle. The stretches will include foot wall stretches as well as hanging foot stretches (picture an invisible ball underneath the foot, and push the ball back and forth).
The recovery process for a fracture is quite similar, but it will take longer, and is generally viewed as a more serious injury.
Once two weeks have passed since the initial injury, begin exercise again with non-weight bearing exercise including swimming, the rowing machine, hand biking, and arm weights. Slowly increase your activity until you are back to normal. Good luck!