What to Do When You Have an Ankle Injury
If anything could – and should! – put a stop to an activity, it’s an ankle injury. Whenever any form of ankle trauma strikes, the very last thing you should be thinking of doing is trying to ignore it.
In many cases, of course, your ankle won’t give you much of a choice in the matter. That initial pain with any sort of weight-bearing is your body firmly telling you it needs to get off its feet!
But even if the pain “doesn’t feel that bad” and you think you can finish your game or workout, we highly recommend that you do not do that. The ankle is a very important joint for your mobility, and immediately placing more stress on the injury – even if it seems “minor” – can quickly turn it into a much more severe and longer-lasting problem.
It is always a good idea to call us any time you have suffered an ankle injury. We can advise you on whether (and how) to care for your ankle at home, or determine if you need come in for a closer examination and treatment.
Regardless, there are always some wise first steps to take anytime you’re met with sudden pain from an ankle injury. Taking action in this way can help considerably reduce pain and swelling over the next 48 hours.
First Aid for an Ankle Injury
An ankle injury can happen in a variety of ways, from a hard hit on the field to simply landing your foot wrong while stepping down from a curb. Whatever the cause, think of classic RICE protocol for immediate treatment.
- REST – Get off the injured ankle as best you can and as quickly as possible. Taking weight and stress off any injured soft tissue is key to the recovery process. Continuing to strain the area can impede healing and even undo it in some cases.
- ICE – Apply ice to the area for up to 20 minutes, 3-4 times per day. Never apply ice directly to the skin (wrap your source of cold in a thin towel to help prevent skin damage) and wait a few hours between each icing session. Ice therapy can substantially reduce initial swelling.
- COMPRESS – If you are comfortable doing so, gently wrap your ankle in an elastic bandage (such as an ACE bandage) in a way that does not cut off your circulation. If you are not comfortable with doing this and do not know someone who can help, it is perfectly all right to skip this step.
- ELEVATE – Keep your ankle above the level of your heart for as long as possible. This can also help relieve pain and swelling over the first 48 hours. Elevation can be as simple as leaning back in a recliner or propping your foot up on a stack of pillows while on your bed or couch.
You do not have to wait to call us before starting this protocol.
“But It’s Probably Just a Sprain!”
In some circles, it seems there’s a belief that an ankle injury is “OK” if it’s “just” a sprain. This could not be further from the truth!
First of all, it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between a severe ankle sprain and an outright ankle fracture. And in a situation like that, you don’t want to be guessing; you need a professional and the right tools to determine what is happening with your ankle.
But also, just because a bone might not be broken doesn’t mean that other very important parts of your ankle are not at risk.
A sprain is an injury to one or more of the ligaments that hold your joint stable. Even if it feels relatively minor, not treating or respecting it properly can interfere with recovery and healing.
If your ligaments do not heal well, it can leave your ankle open to instability, which increases your odds of another sprain, which will then likely leave your joint even more unstable. Just like a rubber band that is continuously overstretched, the ligaments continue to lose more and more of their strength and elasticity.
You can see how this cycle can perpetuate, and a high number of ankle injuries can also increase your chances of arthritis in the joint over years to come.
Ultimately, for the sake of your long-term ankle health, it all comes down to this: always give any ankle injury the proper consideration and treatment.
Your Source for Ankle Injury Care in Longmont
Whether you have suffered an ankle sprain, a fracture, or… you’re not quite sure what it is, Dr. Yakel and the experts at the Colorado Center for Podiatric Sports Medicine are here to guide you toward recovery.
We understand the needs and ambitions of athletes, and our mission is always to get our patients back to doing what they love as quickly and as safely as possible, utilizing both traditional and state-of-the-art treatments to get you there.
Never hesitate to call us at (720) 600-3380 to schedule an appointment. Don’t forget our telemedicine option, either, which can allow us to gauge the initial condition of your ankle without you having to make a trip into the office.