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Care for Ankle Sprains

sprainWHAT IS AN ANKLE SPRAIN?
An ankle sprain is a stretch or tear of the ligaments that hold the ankle-foot bones together.  Your ankle ligaments hold your joint together to limit excessive motion and keep your ankle safe from twists.

Ankle sprains are graded by severity from Grade I to Grade III.  With a Grade III sprain you usually cannot bear weight right after the injury or in the emergency room.

There are 3 types of ankle sprains: lateral (outside aspect), medial (inside aspect) and syndesmosis (between the 2 lower leg bones.  The most common sprain is the lateral or inversion sprain.

Lateral Ankle Ligaments

ligaments

SELF CARE FOR YOUR ANKLE SPRAIN

  1. Toe Pumps:  Move all toes together up & down, alternating 10-20 times.
  2. Ankle Pumps:  Move ankle up & down, alternating 10-20 times.
  3. Ankle Circles: Circle ankle clockwise, then counterclockwise, 10-20 times each way.
  4. Calf Stretch:   Long sitting with your leg straight, place a towel around the ball of your foot. Holding each end of the towel, pull your foot and ankle up, placing a stretch on the back of your leg (calf muscle.) Hold 20 to 30 seconds.  Repeat 3 times.

sprainRICE
Do for the first week following your ankle sprain:

  • R - Rest from all painful activity. No sports for 3 weeks!)
  • I - Ice.  Apply an ice pack to your ankle for 15 to 20 minutes.  Do 3 times per day after exercises. Place dry layer of towel between your skin and ice pack to prevent frostbite. Secure with an ace wrap or towel.
  • C -Compression.  Wrap your ankle with an Ace Bandage.
  • E -Elevation. Raise your ankle up on pillows, chair seat, sofa when applying ice. Avoid having your ankle hang down for long periods to prevent swelling.  

Ice should be done for at least the first 48 hours 15-20 minutes at a time 3-4 times daily. Be sure to place a dry towel or pillowcase between your skin and the ice pack to prevent frostbite. Either hold in place or secure with an ace wrap or towel.

After 48 hours Contrast Baths can be used by alternating placing your ankle/foot into a container of warm (100-101 F) water for 3 minutes and then place it into a container of cold water (55-65 F) water for 1 minute. This will be done for a total of 20 minutes or 5x each container. While in the warm water you may move the foot gently to improve range of motion and keep still while in the cool water.

WHEN TO SEEK FURTHER MEDICAL ATTENTION

  1. Immediately if your foot or lower leg is bent at an angle.
  2. If you experience the following:
  • You heard a "pop" at the time of injury.
  • You have moderate to severe pain or severe swelling and bruising.
  • If you are unable to walk or put weight on the foot/ankle.
  • If you have numbness or tingling that lasts after the initial injury.
  • If you have swelling or bruising that lasts greater than 2 weeks contact your health care professional.

In some cases, a doctor or nurse might order an X-ray to check for broken bones, but that is not always needed.

You may be given a brace or other supportive device which typically will require use for 2 weeks unless otherwise instructed. Physical therapy may also be necessary for some injuries. All of this will help and enables your ligaments to heal well, & helps prevent re-current ankle sprains.

You should take off your bracing device 3 times per day unless given other directions to do active range of motion and stretching exercises for your foot and ankle to prevent stiffness. These are found in the self care exercises provided in this handout.

FOLLOW-UP WITH YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER AS HE OR SHE RECOMMENDS, AND SOONER IF YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEMS.