A sprained ankle is a very common ankle injury which involves the stretching or tearing of the ankle ligaments. The most common is an inversion injury where the ankle turns inward, injuring the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.
The most common injury sustained in a sprained ankle is to the anterior talo-fibula ligament (ATFL) (refer to figure above). If the sprain is severe, there might also be damage to the calcaneo-fibula ligament (CFL) (refer to figure above). In addition to the ligament injury, there may be additional injury to tendons, bone and other joint tissues. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis of your ankle sprain as severe ankle sprains may be associated with a fracture.
A sports medicine physician can assess the injury to establish an accurate diagnosis. Pain medications can be prescribed to help with pain and swelling.
They can also help reduce swelling by compression, massages, or taping techniques. They may also prescribe a full ankle rehabilitation programme to strengthen the joint and help prevent future ankle sprains by improving balance and proprioception.
Establishing an accurate diagnosis from the start is important. The treatment will be different if there are associated fractures or other injuries.
If your ankle is sprained, RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as soon as possible.
R stands for rest. It is important to rest the injury to reduce pain and prevent further damage. Crutches may be needed if there is severe pain when putting weight on the injured side.
I stands for ice. Applying ice and compression can ease the pain and reduce swelling. Apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel immediately following injury for 15 minutes. Repeat this every 4 hours.
C stands for compression. This reduces bleeding and helps reduce swelling. Elastic bandaging is excellent for providing support and compression.
E stands for elevation. Using gravity to reduce bleeding and swelling allows fluids to flow away from the site of injury.
It is also important to protect the injured ankle with an ankle support. Tape can also be used during the rehabilitation phase to protect the joint and give proprioceptive feedback to the ankle to decrease further injury.
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