A sprained ankle can be caused by any number of things ranging from a simple slip on ice to a fall while playing basketball. Quickly addressing an ankle sprain with your orthopedic doctor is crucial. This is especially true in the case of a more severe third-degree ankle sprain. Immediate and proper treatment reduces the likelihood of repeated sprains and long-term ankle problems.
At EmergeOrtho our elite-grade physicians have extensive experience treating a wide variety of injuries, including ankle sprains. Our compassionate, comprehensive orthopedic care enables us to help area residents get back on their feet and Emerge Stronger. Healthier. Better.
Sprained Ankle Symptoms and Diagnosis
The goal of the EmergeOrtho Foot and Ankle Team is to effectively treat ankle sprains to return patients to their regular activities as soon as possible. The first step to diagnosing your ankle sprain includes an evaluation and examination of your ankle.
Orthopedic physicians apply “grades,” to ankle sprains based on the severity of injury:
- Grade I Ankle Sprain
Also referred to as a first-degree sprain, a grade I diagnosis refers to a stretched ankle ligament. Symptoms include mild pain with normal movement.
- Grade II Ankle Sprain
A second-degree ankle sprain is characterized by a partially torn ligament. Symptoms include significant pain and swelling, restricted movement, and mild-to-moderate joint instability.
- Grade III Ankle Sprain
A third-degree ankle sprain refers to a ligament that has been completely torn. Symptoms include mild to severe pain, swelling, and significant joint instability.
It is important to understand that once you have sprained your ankle, you increase the chance of spraining it again—especially over the next couple of years. This risk increases with athletes and active people who place more strain on the joints.
Research demonstrates that one to two out of 10 people who have had a third-degree ankle sprain experience chronic ankle instability. Ankle instability leaves the ankle at a much higher risk for unexpected ankle twists and increased sprains.
How to Treat a Sprained Ankle
Conservative treatment is the first recommendation because with time, sprains generally heal on their own.
Non-surgical treatment methods include:
- RICE Method
Rest, ice, compression, and elevation is a common conservative treatment for ankle sprains.
Often, your EmergeOrtho doctor will suggest taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxen to ease pain and inflammation.
It is particularly important during initial ankle sprain recovery to keep the ankle protected. A boot, brace, splint, or other immobilization device keeps the ankle secure and supported while it heals.
- Therapeutic Exercises
When considered healed enough, special exercises and stretches are implemented to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion of your ankle. Your doctor may have you perform these exercises independently, with the aid of a physical therapist, or both.
Patients who follow the rehabilitation guidelines of their doctor often fully recover from an ankle sprain. One of the most common problems for those who stop practicing recommended exercises and stretches too soon is developing chronic ankle instability.
If pain persists beyond four to six weeks, you likely have a chronic ankle sprain. In the event you are still experiencing pain and discomfort after the six-week mark, it is important to consult with your orthopedic doctor.
When You Need More Than Conservative Treatment
Although many ankle sprains heal from the use of non-surgical treatment methods, certain severe cases may require surgical intervention. Third-degree ankle sprains with serious damage often need surgery for optimum outcomes. Pieces of torn ligament must be removed and the ligament reconstructed.
Our EmergeOrtho foot and ankle surgeons may use one of the following surgical techniques:
- Reconstruction Surgery
The torn ligament is repaired with stitches or sutures. Or, the damaged ligament is replaced with a soft tissue graft or other ligaments and tendons in the foot.
By making a small incision, your doctor will insert a tiny “arthroscope” camera to look inside your damaged ankle joint. Equally miniature surgical instruments are then used to remove any loose fragments of cartilage or bone.
If you have an ankle sprain, our specialists can instruct you on how to best care for the sprain for it to heal safely. Our orthopedic experts are also happy to share preventative strategies and ways to keep your ankles safe and protected from injury.
Simple tips such as wearing the right kind of shoes, avoiding uneven pavement and road surfaces can go a long way in preventing an ankle sprain.
EmergeOrtho’s nationally recognized physicians have remained at the forefront of the latest medical advances. Their skills, knowledge, and advanced capabilities have created one of the best practices in the Southeast.
To learn more about ankle sprains and the services we provide for patients throughout the Carolinas, request an appointment with one of our EmergeOrtho doctors now.