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Ankle Sprain

Ankle Sprains: A Comprehensive Guide to Treatment and Recovery

At Arizona Foot, we understand that an ankle sprain can be an incredibly frustrating and painful injury. Suddenly, you cannot bear weight comfortably, your ankle is swollen and discolored, and the activities you once enjoyed seem out of reach. However, with the right treatment approach, most ankle sprains can heal completely, allowing you to regain your mobility and resume your active lifestyle. Our team of experienced podiatrists, located at 7304 E Deer Valley Road Ste #100 in Scottsdale, AZ 85255, is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for ankle sprains to facilitate a full recovery.

Understanding Ankle Sprains

An ankle sprain occurs when the strong ligaments that support and stabilize the ankle joint are stretched or torn beyond their normal range of motion. The most common mechanism of injury is when the foot rolls inwards, damaging the ligaments on the outside of the ankle – known as a lateral ankle sprain.

Ankle sprains are graded based on severity:

Grade 1 (Mild): The ligaments are stretched, but there are no tears. Symptoms encompass mild aches, swelling, and stiffness.

Grade 2 (Moderate): There is partial tearing of the ligament fibers. More significant swelling, bruising, and difficulty bearing weight are common.

Grade 3 (Severe): The ligament is completely torn, resulting in severe pain, substantial swelling and bruising, and instability of the ankle joint.

Prompt, proper treatment is essential for all ankle sprains, even seemingly minor ones. Failing to allow the ligaments to heal fully increases the risk of chronic ankle instability, repeated sprains, and long-term issues like arthritis.

There are four reasons why an ankle sprain should be promptly evaluated and treated by a foot and ankle surgeon:

  • First, an untreated ankle sprain may lead to chronic ankle instability, a condition marked by persistent discomfort. You may also develop weakness in the leg or difficulties walking on uneven surfaces.
  • Second, you may have suffered a more severe ankle injury along with the sprain. This might include a serious bone fracture or torn ligaments in the leg that can lead to troubling complications if it goes untreated.
  • Third, an ankle sprain may be accompanied by a foot injury that causes discomfort but has gone unnoticed thus far.
  • Fourth, rehabilitation of a sprained ankle needs to begin right away to prevent avoidable long-term problems.

Arizona Foot’s Multi-Modal Treatment Approach

At our practice, we utilize a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to treat ankle sprains effectively and promote optimal healing. Our treatment protocols are individualized based on the specifics and grade of your ankle sprain, as well as your goals and activity level. However, some common elements include:

Protection and Immobilization

In the acute phase after an ankle sprain, protecting and immobilizing the ankle is crucial. Depending on the severity, we may recommend using a rigid brace, removable cast boot, or even a cast to restrict ankle motion and allow the ligaments to begin healing.  

Reducing Inflammation

Controlling swelling is a top priority, as excessive inflammation can impede healing and prolong recovery. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen, combined with icing and compression wraps, help minimize swelling in the first 48-72 hours after injury.

Physical Therapy

Once the acute swelling subsides, targeted physical therapy becomes a vital part of your rehabilitation. Our skilled physical therapists design customized exercise programs focused on:

  • Restoring pain-free range of motion
  • Rebuilding strength in the muscles surrounding the ankle joint
  • Improving proprioception (awareness of the ankle’s position)
  • Enhancing balance, agility, and functional movement patterns

Manual therapy techniques like joint mobilizations, soft tissue massage, and taping/bracing help facilitate healing and protect the ankle as you regain strength and stability.

Advanced Treatments

For more severe Grade 2 or Grade 3 sprains, or in cases where conservative treatment is ineffective. Our podiatrists may recommend advanced treatment options:

  • Immobilization Boots/Braces: Specialized boots or braces provide superior support and protection during the healing process.
  • MRI imaging: Detailed imaging helps identify any associated injuries like tendon tears or cartilage damage.  
  • Surgical Repair: If the ligament is completely torn or fails to heal properly, surgically repairing or reconstructing the damaged ligament may be necessary.
  • Regenerative Medicine: Innovative treatments like stem cell injections or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy can enhance healing for severe sprains.

Throughout your healing, our team continuously re-evaluates your development and adjusts your treatment plan as had to acquire the best outcome.

Rehabilitation: The Key to Full Recovery

While initial treatment lays the foundation, comprehensive rehabilitation is essential for restoring the ankle’s full strength, flexibility, and function. Our physical therapists are experts in designing customized programs to address your specific deficits and facilitate a safe return to your desired activities.

In the rehab phase, you’ll work on:

Regaining Pain-Free Range of Motion

Restoring full ankle dorsiflexion, plantarflexion, inversion, and eversion is crucial. Stretching, joint mobilizations, and targeted exercises gradually increase the ankle’s mobility.

Rebuilding Strength

Strong muscles surrounding the ankle joint provide stability and help prevent future sprains. Resistance training focused on the calves, peroneals, tibialis, and intrinsic foot muscles is a rehab priority.

Enhancing Proprioception

Exercises that challenge your proprioception (awareness of the ankle’s position) condition the ankle’s stabilizing reflexes to improve joint control.

Improving Balance and Agility 

Balance boards, agility drills, and functional exercises train the ankle to respond properly to the demands of sports, work tasks, and daily activities.

Our group also carefully evaluates any biomechanical troubles that may have contributed to the original ankle sprain, inclusive of immoderate pronation, muscle imbalances, or an unsuitable education approach. Custom foot orthotic devices, gait retraining, and interest-particular exercising progressions make sure you regain characteristics whilst mitigating destiny damage hazard.

When to Seek Treatment for an Ankle Sprain

If you’ve recently suffered an ankle injury with symptoms of swelling, pain, bruising, and instability. It’s important to seek evaluation from a qualified medical professional as soon as possible. Attempting to “walk it off” or delay treatment puts you at risk for incomplete healing and chronic ankle issues down the road.

At Arizona Foot, we recommend making an appointment if:

  • You can’t bear weight comfortably on the injured ankle
  • Swelling and bruising persist for more than 48 hours
  • You feel significant instability or recurring “giving way” of the ankle
  • Pain and stiffness fail to improve within a week

Our team utilizes advanced imaging like X-rays and MRIs to accurately diagnose the extent of the sprain and identify any associated injuries. From there, we develop a personalized, multi-modal treatment plan to facilitate full recovery.  

Don’t let an ankle sprain sideline you from your active lifestyle. Call Arizona Foot at 480-342-9999 today to schedule an appointment at our Scottsdale office. Our professional podiatrists greatly enjoy managing ankle sprains, presenting the comprehensive care you want to get lower back in your toes speedy and adequately. Protect your mobility – get treatment for your ankle sprain from the experts at Arizona Foot.


Dr. Kris Dinucci

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