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When Your Sprained Ankle Requires Medical Attention

If you’ve ever lost your footing or misstepped, you’ve probably felt the sudden pain that comes with a sprained ankle. It’s a common injury and mild cases can often be treated at home. 

However, sometimes your sprain may be severe enough to require medical attention in order to heal properly. With 16 locations across Georgia and South Carolina, our team of expert podiatrists at Ankle & Foot Associates can help you heal from your sprained ankle.

What causes a sprained ankle?

Your ankles are complex joints made up of the bones at the end of your shin (the tibia and fibula), and a bone that sits above your heel (the talus). Normally, stretchy bands called ligaments work to stabilize your ankle joint, supporting a normal range of movement. 

A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments that support your ankle bones are extended beyond their normal mobility, causing them to be stretched or torn. Common symptoms include swelling, bruising, stiffness, and weakness. 

Generally, we categorize ankle sprains into three grades.

When do I need medical attention for my sprained ankle?

If you think your injury is a Grade 1 sprain, you should be able to treat it at home following the RICE protocol. However, if you’re experiencing severe pain, are unable to put any weight on your ankle, or are healing very slowly, it’s time to speak to our specialists at Food & Ankle Associates as it might be a Grade 3 sprain.

We can assess your injury by conducting a weight-bearing X-ray, which offers a clearer view of your injury than other types of X-rays. If this is inconclusive, we can conduct ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) to view soft tissue damage. 

These tests can help determine the severity of your sprain, whether there’s ligament damage, and differentiate if there’s different issues such as stress fractures or hairline fractures at play. If we diagnose you with a mild sprain, here are some tips for caring for your sprain at home. 

Recovering at home

Mildly sprained ankles can be treated at home by following the RICE protocol:

R: Rest 

Take it easy and avoid putting weight on the injured foot.

I: Ice 

Use ice and cool packs to treat the swelling. Wrap your ice pack in a towel and apply for up to 20 minutes a few times a day. You should avoid using heat packs while there is swelling but can use them after the swelling goes down.

C: Compression

 Use elastic bandages to wrap and compress your ankle to prevent swelling and immobilize the area. If the wrapped area feels numb, cold, or tingly, it’s important to loosen the bandage to avoid blocking blood flow. 

E: Elevation 

Raise your sprained ankle above the level of your heart whenever possible and when resting it in order to prevent blood from pooling in that area. This could involve propping your leg up with pillows when lying down. 

RICE should be considered a short-term method for coping with a mild sprain. If your sprained ankle is causing you severe pain, you’re unable to walk, or you haven’t felt better after a few days of rest, come speak with our expert team and Foot & Ankle Associates. It’s easy to get in touch by visiting one of our 16 locations across Georgia and South Carolina or sending us a message online. 

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