I Injured My Ankle: Now What Do I Do?

Commonly patients call the Foot & Ankle Center of Arizona and relate of injuring their Ankle. Here is some helpful information about Ankle sprains and how to care for the injury. 

When you sustain an ankle sprain most commonly your ankle turns inward. This is not a natural movement and commonly results in an injury to one or more ligaments in the ankle, usually the ligaments on the outside of the ankle sustain the most damage. Ligaments are made of a firm tissue that holds the bones together across a mobile joint. These ligaments afford stability to keep the ankle moving in the correct alignment.  

Ankle injuries vary in levels of severity. Depending on the force of the injury, one or sometimes more than one ankle ligament(s) can be stretched or torn. Ankle sprains differ from strains as strains occur within muscle. 

What I feel: Symptoms : The symptoms of ankle sprains may include:

  • Pain or soreness
  • Swelling and or Bruising
  • Difficulty walking or putting pressure on the ankle or foot
  • Stiffness in the joint
  • Pain away from the ankle in the top or outside of the foot.

Symptoms may vary in intensity, depending on the severity of the sprain. Sometimes pain and swelling are absent in people with previous ankle sprains as the ligaments have been permanently torn from repeated injuries. These patients may feel the ankle is wobbly and unsteady when they walk. Even if there is no pain or swelling with a sprained ankle, proper evaluation is very important. 

What should I do after injuring my ankle?   When you have an ankle sprain, it is best to rest the area and limit the stress to the injured region. 

  • Rest. Stay off the injured ankle if there is pain with standing or walking. You should be evaluated within a day or two of injuring the Ankle. If you feel no pain walking with normal daily activities should be OK. If you feel focal pain in an area of your ankle which fails to improve present for evaluation within 5-7 days. Additional exercise or walking may cause further injury. 
  • Ice. For the first 72 hours after the injury apply an ice pack to the injured area, placing a thin towel between the ice and the skin. Use ice for 20 minutes 2 to 3 times daily separated by an hour. The first few days after an injury is when the inflammation is at its highest level. 
  • Compression. An elastic wrap is helpful from the foot to the ankle to limit swelling. Newer compression ankle compression sleeves can be used when the soreness around the ankle has diminished and should only be applied during the daytime. When you rest and sleep your blood pressure lowers and a tight wrapping or sleeve at the ankle level may create more pain. It is best overnight to use a compression wrap but wear it looser during bedtime.
  • Elevation. The ankle should be raised at or slightly above the level of your heart when resting to reduce swelling for the first few days. If you are sleeping and laying flat it is not necessary to raise your leg. 
  • Early therapy. The doctors at the Foot & Ankle Center of Arizona commonly place patients after these injuries on a rehabilitation program as soon as possible to promote healing and increase your range of motion. This includes doing prescribed exercises. Many published studies in current medial literature show improved long-term outcomes with a physician directed care plan after proper evaluation. It is important to not being a rehabilitation program until it has been determined there is no significant bone, tendon, or ligament injuries that will be worsened with increased movement and stress to the injured ankle.  
  • Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be used to reduce pain and inflammation. Newer topical medications such as Diclofenac and alternative topical anti-inflammatories such as CBD cream may be used as well to the injury site. There are many additional factors to lower inflammation from dietary changes (lowering carbohydrate intake – increasing green leafy vegetables), vitamin supplements (Vitamin D, fish oil), food supplements (Tumeric, Ginger and green tea extract), all have been shown to be beneficial to heloping the body to lower inflammation 

When Prompt Medical Attention Is Needed:
There are four key reasons why an ankle sprain should be promptly evaluated and treated by a foot and ankle surgeon:

  • An untreated ankle sprain may lead to long-term ankle instability, a condition marked by persistent discomfort and a “giving way” of the ankle. Weakness in the leg from the tendons on the side of the ankle where the injury occurs may also develop.
  • A more severe ankle injury may have occurred along with the sprain. This might include a bone fracture of the ankle or foot and if not treated promptly may require surgery. Injuries treated early and appropriately such as these lead to improved outcomes and healthier ankle long-term due to the protection afforded earlier to allow the injured bone to heal with rest and protection.
  • An ankle sprain which is accompanied by a foot injury that is now painful should be evaluated with radiographs. There are many common sites of bone fractures with ankle sprains due to abnormal stresses placed on the bones with the ankle out of alignment. The pain from these fractures may not be severe, but commonly patients will not be able to ‘walk it off’.
  • Rehabilitation of a sprained ankle should begin right away. If rehabilitation is delayed, the injury may not heal as well and may require longer treatment times or more extensive treatments that can be avoided with early care. 

If you feel your ankle injury is painful and you fit the criteria above for evaluation or your have concerns about your injury call us for an evaluation. We have the ability to perform weight-bearing x-rays and may order advanced imaging to help determine the severity of the injury.