One of the most common injuries – particularly among athletes, runners, and weekend warriors – is a sprained ankle. It occurs when you roll, twist, or turn your ankle in an awkward way, stretching the ligaments (bands of tissue) that help hold ankle bones together beyond their normal range of motion. In some cases, the ligaments are torn, which can be quite painful.
Anyone can sustain a sprained ankle, but it may not be that easy to self-diagnose. Depending on the severity of the injury, there are seven basic signs and symptoms that can help you identify an ankle sprain.
Diagnosing and Treating a Sprained Ankle
It is likely that you have sprained your ankle if you experience:
- Moderate to severe pain, notably when weight is placed on the affected foot
- Tenderness when the ankle is touched
- Swelling of the affected area
- Bruising of the ankle
- Restricted range of motion
- Ankle instability
- A popping sound or sensation at the time of the injury
Regardless of your level of discomfort, you should consult a doctor if you suspect a sprain. Self-care measures, such as R.I.C.E. (rest, icing, compression, elevation) and/or over-the-counter pain relievers, may suffice if your injury is mild to moderate. However, if your symptoms are severe, it may indicate considerable damage to a ligament or even a broken bone in your ankle or lower leg if you were a part of a collision or accident. In that case, your doctor can refer you to an orthopedic specialist for further diagnostic evaluation, which may include:
- An X-rayto rule outbone fractures.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce detailed cross-sectional or 3-D images of the internal structures of your ankle, including ligaments.
- Computed tomography (a CT scan)to reveal more details about the bones of the ankle joint.
- An ultrasound, which uses sound waves to produce real-time imagesto assess the condition of a tendon or ligament in different positions.
Professional medical treatment for a sprained ankle depends on the severity of the injury. The goal is to ease your pain and swelling, promote healing, and restore function of the ankle. To do that, an orthopedic surgeon or physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation may recommend:
- Devices, such as crutches, elastic bandage, sports tape, or ankle support brace, to stabilize the ankle. In extreme ankle sprain cases, a cast or walking boot may be required to immobilize your ankle while it heals.
- Physical therapy in the form of exercises designed to restore your ankle’s strength, flexibility, stability, and range of motion.
- Surgery, but only if your injury doesn’t heal or your ankle remains unstable following an extensive period of physical therapy and rehabilitative exercise. Surgical options include repairing a ligament that doesn’t heal or reconstructing the ligament with tissue from a nearby ligament or tendon.
Orthopedic Doctor Near You in Central Maryland
Any orthopedic injury, including a sprained ankle, can adversely affect your physical and emotional health. That’s why it’s important to entrust your care to a skilled orthopedic doctor.
At Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland (OACM), our board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopaedic doctors combine the science of medicine with the art of personal care, resulting in better outcomes and restored function for a better quality of life for our patients. We want patients to be empowered and be treated as partners in designing care plans with their physicians, which is why we work closely with our patients to determine the best treatment to overcome their specific orthopaedic needs.
To schedule an office appointment for any of our locations, you can use our secure online form or call us at (410) 644-1880 or toll-free at (855) 4MD-BONE. For physical therapy appointments for all locations, please call (443) 478-4449.