Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are one of the most common sports injuries, although ankle sprains can occur in non-athletes as well.

The ligaments in the ankle are made up of elastic-like fibers that stretch to allow movement, while keeping the ankle joint in place. These ligaments can stretch within the ankle’s normal range of motion, but when the ligaments are stretched too far, either through an accident or sports injury, a sprain can occur.

Causes and Symptoms

Sprains occur when the ankle ligaments are twisted beyond their normal range of motion. Accidents or injuries can cause the foot to twist or roll past its limit, stretching the ligaments too far. Symptoms of an ankle sprain may vary based on the severity of the sprain.

Sprains are graded by severity.

  • With a Grade 1 sprain, the ankle ligament is stretched, and the fibers are damaged, but not completely torn. This often results in some tenderness and swelling in the ankle.
  • If the ligament is partially torn, it is a Grade 2 sprain. Grade 2 sprains also result in tenderness and swelling, and there may be decreased range of motion in the ankle and some instability.
  • If the ligament is completely torn, it is a Grade 3 sprain. Grade 3 sprains cause significant swelling, tenderness, and instability in the ankle.

Treatment for Ankle Sprains

In almost all cases, nonsurgical treatment is effective in healing ankle sprains. However, if the ankle is still unstable and does not respond to nonsurgical treatment, surgical options are available.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Ankle sprains require a period of rest in order to heal properly. You may need to use crutches to avoid putting weight on the injured ankle. Depending on the severity of the sprain, a castboot or splint may be recommended to keep the ankle in proper position as it heals. Even a complete ligament tear can heal with nonsurgical methods if it is immobilized correctly during the healing process.

The RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is often recommended for sprains. The ankle needs to rest so that it can heal properly. Ice packs can be applied for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times per day to reduce swelling. Compression bandages also help provide support to the ankle, and the ankle should be elevated above heart level for the first 48 hours after the sprain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen may be recommended to help with pain and swelling.

Physical therapy is also helpful in preventing stiffness and restoring strength and function in the ankle. The goal of these exercises is to gradually allow you to return to normal activities, including sports. Full recovery can take weeks or months. It is important that you do not return to an activity until you get approval from your doctor. If you put too much weight or stress on your ankle before it is completely healed, you could hinder the healing process.

If the ankle remains unstable after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery may be recommended.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is not usually needed to heal ankle sprains. However, if surgery is needed, there are two options, depending on the problem.

1. If there are any loose fragments of bone or cartilage in the ankle, or part of the ligament is caught in the joint, arthroscopy may be used to “clean up” the joint.

2. If the ligament is torn, and has not healed with more conservative treatment methods, it may be surgically repaired.

Ankle Sprain Treatment in Beaumont, TX

The orthopedic specialists at Beaumont Bone and Joint Institute treat a variety of sports injuries, including ankle sprains. If you think you have an ankle sprain and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please contact our Beaumont office at (409) 838-0346 or our Mid County office at (409) 729-5633, or use our convenient appointment request form.