When you think of a sprained ankle, you may imagine unbearable pain and extreme swelling. While this is sometimes true, a minor sprain might not cause many symptoms. You could very well walk on the injury with only mild discomfort.
The team at Peninsula Orthopedic Associates are experts in ankle sprains and other orthopedic injuries. Our 10 orthopedic specialists have years of experience and training, and they can provide you with the latest treatments.
What is a sprained ankle?
An ankle sprain is a common injury among people of all ages. It happens when the ligaments in your ankle are stretched far past their normal range. In severe cases, your ligaments may tear.
Your ankle ligaments are crucial because they join your ankle bones around your joint. They also give your ankle the stability and support it needs to allow you to walk, run, and jump.
Anything that causes you to roll or twist your ankle can result in a sprain. These injuries often happen from an injury such as a fall. You can also suffer a sprain from a sports injury or a traumatic accident.
Ankle sprains are categorized into grade 1, grade 2, and grade 3. A mild sprain is considered grade 1, while a severe sprain with ligament tears is grade 3.
Understanding the symptoms
The symptoms of a sprained ankle vary significantly, depending on the severity of your injury. More mild sprains yield less severe symptoms than completely torn ligaments in your ankle. You can experience several symptoms with a sprained ankle, including:
There are varying levels of pain with a sprained ankle. If you have a mild sprain, you might not have much pain. However, more severe sprains cause significant discomfort and constant pain.
When you initially sprain the ligaments in your ankle, your body responds with inflammation. The inflammation is the first step in the healing process, which is why you notice swelling around the joint.
Tenderness around the sprain is common, especially in the first few hours after the injury. As your ankle swells to protect the ligament, you notice that it hurts to touch the area.
You may also notice bruising if you have a severe sprain where your ligaments tear. It's common with traumatic ankle sprains, where various tissues are involved and there is bleeding inside the joint.
Instability develops when your ligaments are badly stretched, perhaps even torn. They support your ankle, which is why you feel unstable. You might feel like your ankle will give out at any second with a more severe sprain.
You can walk on your ankle even if it's sprained. The severity of your sprain determines how well you can put weight on the injured foot.
What to do next
If you think you've sprained your ankle, seek help from our team as soon as possible. Even if you can put weight on your ankle, it's essential for the health of your joint that you seek treatment.
When you come in for an ankle sprain, one of our specialists evaluates your ankle and asks about your injury. They also ask about your symptoms and pain, including what makes your pain worse.
After a thorough evaluation, our team may order imaging studies to determine the extent of your injury. An X-ray is usually the go-to imaging test, but an MRI may be necessary for more extensive injuries.
From there, our team customizes a treatment plan that allows your ankle to heal. Your treatment may include rest, ice, compression, and elevation for the first few days. You can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications for discomfort.
Our team may recommend immobilizing your ankle for a few days while the swelling subsides. You also need to start physical therapy soon afterward to ensure you regain your normal range of motion.
It can take anywhere from two weeks to a few months for your ankle to heal fully. The length of recovery depends on the severity of your injury.
When you have ankle pain that's not improving, don't hesitate to call our office in Daly City, California, today or book a consultation online.