he ankles are one of those areas that can easily get taken for granted. They perform a lot of important work for your stability and movement, but might not always receive the attention they need when they get hurt.
While mild ankle sprains can be an occasional misfortune in life that tends to heal well on its own, it is still important to treat sprains and other ankle problems seriously. While your ankles are tough, they’re not invincible—conditions that don’t heal properly can cause more problems down the road.
Why Ankle Attention is Important
The ankle is a complex joint that bears a lot of weight and plays a major role in our mobility. You want the bones, tendons, and ligaments surrounding that joint to be in optimal health throughout your life.
An injury such as an ankle sprain can cause significant damage to the components of the ankle. In the case of a sprain, it’s the stretching and even partial tearing of the ligaments that hold the joint stable.
In certain cases, without the right attention, the ligaments may not heal fully, or heal in such a way that the stability of the joint is reduced. This paves the way for future sprains, which can further decrease stability. The end result can be chronic pain, chronic ankle instability, and even a higher likelihood of developing arthritis in the ankle.
Even if you feel your sprain is minor, that does not mean you should underestimate it. Never continue your activities and play through the pain—you only risk making your condition worse and increasing your odds of complications.
Also, even if the sprain or other type of ankle injury is minor, it is beneficial to give us a call and let us know what happened. If we have any concerns, we might ask you to come in for a closer look. Even when we don’t, however, we will have a record of the injury that might be useful information if we start seeing more stability and sprains in the future.
Treating Ankle Injuries and Conditions
Once again, because we can’t stress this enough, stop whatever you are doing if you suffer an ankle sprain or other injury.
Keep weight off the affected ankle as much as you can. To help with swelling and pain, keep the ankle above the level of your heart (propped up on a coffee table or bed with pillows often does the trick comfortably).
You can also apply an ice pack for 10 minutes at a time, then removing for at least 10 minutes before reapplying, during the first 24-48 hours of the injury. Do not apply ice directly to your skin, as that can cause damage, and do not hold the cold source (ice, pack, etc.) so long on the area that it causes pain.
Depending on the nature of your injury and your treatment goals, one potential option Dr. Spitz might recommend is a pair of custom orthotics. These prescription shoe inserts work by improving the positioning of your feet. In doing so, your feet move in a better, more natural manner–which can both help address current issues and prevent future ones from developing.
You can learn more about custom orthotics on this page.
Also, again, please let us know if you have sprained your ankle (and especially if you think you might have broken it instead!). If the pain is severe, it is very likely that professional attention will be needed.
Diagnostic tests might be needed to determine the extent of an injury. This may include an X-ray or other imaging tests.
If necessary, crutches or a brace might be necessary to help protect the ankle as it heals. We may also recommend specific exercises or physical therapy after a certain point in healing in order to help restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion in the ankle. The pain going away does not always mean you are out of the woods when it comes to future problems, and conditioning the ankle will help reduce risks.
In rare cases, surgery may be needed to repair soft tissues or relieve pain. We will fully explain your options in these situations so you can make a decision in full confidence.