So you were out playing, running, dancing, stepped in a hole or just walking down the sidewalk and you rolled your ankle… how bad is it? What to do? Is it a sprain or a strain?
A sprained ankle is a very common and painful injury that can be fairly minor, needing some gentle care to heal, or can be so severe that recovery is not all that unlike a broken ankle.
First off, a sprain is the stretching of a ligament past its normal length and causes either minor tearing of the tissue or a complete tear. (A ligament is tissue that connects one bone to another bone as opposed to a tendon which attaches a muscle to a bone.) A strain on the other hand is a similar over stretching, and perhaps minor tearing of tissue, but of muscle instead of ligament.
Most all ankle sprains cause some level of swelling and frequently within minutes of the injury a large lump will appear, usually on the outside of the ankle. Bearing weight on the injured part is painful at best and in some cases nearly impossible. The level of pain, however is not always an accurate indication of the seriousness of the injury. That needs to be determined by your podiatrist.
So what to do until you can be seen? As with any injury, simple steps can be undertaken that will not only reduce the pain but reduce the swelling and the chance that further injury occurs because the injury is ignored or not taken seriously. First get off of the ankle, use crutches as needed, and get some help walking. Then follow the simple acronym of RICE…Rest, Ice, Elevate and Compress. Rest, get off of the injured part as continued weight bearing causes continued tissue injury. Ice the area using an ice pack. I am not a big fan of placing ice directly on the skin for more than a few minutes at a time, but it can be placed over a sock or towel almost constantly. Compress: use an elastic type wrap with mild to moderate compression. This reduces swelling and gives some element of support when you need to bear some weight on the ankle. Elevating your ankle at least 6 inches above your waist level will reduce the amount of swelling that occurs and reduce what has already occurred.
Taking an anti-inflammatory may be helpful as well, something like Ibuprofen or Naproxen Sodium; read the label and follow directions. These medications help with the swelling, as well as pain.
Call your podiatrist so an appropriate exam may be done as soon as possible. A plan to get you up and going again can be made.
K.G. Gauntt, DPM