How to manage a sprained ankle

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A sprained ankle is considered as a common injury. A child is likely to end up with one while playing while adults are injured when stepping on uneven surfaces.

Oftentimes, the pain rapidly settles and the individual can resume his/her day. In some cases, though, the sprained ankle might be severe where it becomes significantly swollen and triggers discomfort when standing. If a severe sprain occurred, there is usually a “popping” sensation felt as the injury occurred.

Close look on a sprained ankle

The ankle should be allowed to rest by taking a break from walking.

A sprained ankle involves stretching or tearing of one or several ligaments on the exterior side of the ankle. If one is not properly treated, it can lead to long-term issues.

Generally, the ankle is rolled either inwards (inversion) or outwards (eversion). An inversion sprain causes pain along the exterior side of the ankle and the most common. One is likely to sprain the ankle if the toes are on the ground and heel up. The position puts the ligaments of the ankle under tension which makes them susceptible. Abrupt force such as landing on an uneven terrain might turn the ankle inward. Once this occurs, one or several ligaments might be damaged.

Management of a sprained ankle

The treatment for a sprained ankle should be done correctly to prevent chronic pain and instability. When it comes to a grade I sprain, the RICE method should be followed:

  • Rest – the ankle should be allowed to rest by taking a break from walking. Limit weight bearing and use crutches if needed. An ankle brace might help control the swelling and adds stability as the ligaments heal.
  • Ice – apply an ice pack to reduce the swelling.
  • Compression – this helps control the swelling and immobilize and support the injury
  • Elevate – the affected foot should be propped above the level of the waist or heart as needed with pillows or cushions.

The swelling generally settles in a few days. As for a grade II sprain, the RICE method should be followed and allow a longer healing time. The doctor might immobilize or splint the sprained ankle.

For grade III sprains, there is a risk for lasting ankle instability. In rare instances, surgery might be required to fix the damage. The doctor might also consider using a short leg cast for 2-3 weeks or a walking boot.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on a sprained ankle is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage sprains by taking a standard first aid course with Mississauga First Aid.

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