Treatments for Sprained Ankles

By S.F. Heron
Ankles face tremendous strain from seemingly light activities.
Ankles face tremendous strain from seemingly light activities.

If you've turned your ankle when swinging a club or lost your balance stepping into an indentation on the course, watch your ankle carefully. Symptoms of a sprained ankle include swelling, pain, bruising or difficulty walking. Sprained ankles commonly occur in sports involving running. However, golfers can twist an ankle easily when walking across the uneven surfaces of a green or fairway. The basis of all treatments for sprained ankles is the use of R.I.C.E.--rest, ice, compression and elevation. You should consult with a doctor to determine the amount of tearing or strain of the ankle ligaments.

Rest

If your ankle hurts, immediately discontinue any activity that requires placing weight on your foot and rest your ankle. Grade 1 sprains involve some self-treatment, although your doctor may want to evaluate your condition if pain doesn't improve over a few days. Grade 1 sprains cause instability of the ankle with some ability to walk. Grade 2 sprains require more rest to the ankle since this elevated level of damage might require some kind of foot brace to stabilize the ankle. Grade 3 sprains definitely require rest as well as consultation with a specialist to determine further courses of action. In all grades of sprained ankles, initial treatment and self-care involves resting the injured joint. In general, intense pain should lessen after two to three days. Recovery for a grade 3 ankle sprain can take as long as six months. Proper treatment in the first few days after injury can determine the length of your recovery.

Ice

Ice pack treatment reduces swelling and often eases the pain of an ankle injury. Ice should be applied every two hours for 10 to 15 minutes for the first two to three days until swelling lessens considerably. After the first 24 hours, application of cold therapy becomes extremely important to help encourage blood flow and healing in the joint. Initial application can help reduce bleeding in the torn ligaments.

Compression

Compression helps limit swelling and stabilizes the joint. Compression wrap bandages such as flexible Ace bandages can also help limit bleeding. When used in conjunction with rest and ice, many patients feel better quickly. Normal activity shouldn't be resumed just because your ankle feels stable when wrapped. Compression works in conjunction with other treatments to control and protect the ligaments after damage.

Elevation

Place your foot up on some pillows or the end of the sofa and relax. Elevating a sprained ankle offers another common treatment option to reduce swelling of the injury. Elevation allows fluids to drain from the injured site for absorption by the body and helps reduce immediate pain. If you see no improvement within 48 hours, consult your doctor as soon as possible. Indications of a severe ankle sprain include inability to move the joint or place weight on it at all, intense pain, fever, heated feeling or redness to the ankle and continued swelling.

Medical Intervention

The crucial point of recovery involves resuming regular activities, including sports. Ankle sprains require careful treatment to prevent recurrence and strengthen the joint slowly. Doctors often prescribe specific exercise to strengthen the joint. Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy to increase balance, flexibility and range of motion. Exercise of any type, including physical therapy, should not occur until after ankle swelling has reduced significantly. Orthopedic surgeons can address issues of severe Grade 3 ankle sprains that require surgical intervention.

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