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How to Keep a Sprained Ankle From Becoming a Bigger Problem

Ankle sprains are common injuries, accounting for about 10% of emergency room visits. Perhaps it’s the common nature of ankle sprains that make many people think they’re just minor injuries. 

However, that’s not the case. Without proper treatment, an ankle sprain can come back to haunt you, even years later. This is one injury where trying to work through the pain is probably not the best course of action. Left untreated, it could take a surgical procedure down the road to repair the damage. In this blog, the foot and ankle specialists at Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine discuss what happens in a sprain and what the recovery process is like.

The physiology of an ankle sprain

It doesn’t take much to sprain an ankle. Ankle sprains are often caused by rolling the foot, which then stretches the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle.

It’s also possible to sprain the inner ligaments of the ankle or the ligaments above the ankle. While these injuries are less common, sprains above the ankle can occur more in those who play contact sports.

Severity of ankle sprains

Recovering from a sprain depends on the extent of damage caused by the injury. Severity of ankle sprains is divided into three general groupings.

Grade 1 sprains

These sprains are the mildest. The affected ligaments are stretched somewhat, but there’s no tearing. Some pain, tenderness, and swelling may accompany the injury, but you should still be able to bear weight on the ankle. Bruising is unlikely, and your ankle should remain stable. It will take 1-3 weeks to recover.

Grade 2 sprains

These sprains include partial tearing of the ligaments. Pain and swelling is more severe, and you may get bruising. Your ankle’s range of motion will likely be compromised, and putting weight on your ankle will likely cause pain. Your ankle may experience some instability, and it will likely take 3-6 weeks to recover.

Grade 3 sprains

These sprains are the most severe. In this category, ligaments are ruptured or fully torn, often resulting in severe pain, swelling, and bruising. Your ankle will be very unstable, greatly increasing the chances of further injury if you try to use the joint without treating it. Range of motion will often be compromised, and ankle function will be minimal until it has healed. Assistive devices may be necessary for mobility, and it will likely take several months before you fully recover.

If you’ve sprained your ankle, your best course of action is to get it treated. Book an appointment online or over the phone with the foot and ankle specialists at Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine to take your first step toward wholeness.

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