Should I Go To Urgent Care For Sprained Ankle
Do you know what an ankle sprain is? It’s when you twist, turn, and/or step on something unexpectedly hard in the wrong way. This can happen while running, playing sports, doing chores, or just walking around town. If it happens often (and not from falling down), then you should probably see someone about it. And you should definitely go to urgent care if you’re experiencing pain, especially if it hurts to walk and/or move your feet. Here’s why.
Ankle sprains are common injuries. In fact, most of us will experience one at some point during our lives. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates that between 3-4 million people get injured ankles each year, with over half of those ending up in the hospital. We don’t talk much about them because they’re so common, but many of these injuries could be prevented by wearing good shoes. That means choosing a shoe based on how well it supports your feet, as opposed to thinking “I’m OK” when you’ve been wearing flip flops for years.
The bones of your ankle are called fibulas, tibias, and tali. They’re connected by strong ligaments which allow your ankles to function as shock absorbers, helping you stand upright and keep your balance. When these ligaments are pulled too far out of place, either through twisting, turning, or stepping on something unexpected, the result is an ankle sprain.
Sprains generally occur when your ligaments aren’t properly aligned. Your body tries its best to correct this problem itself, but sometimes the injury is severe enough to require medical attention. Ligaments can tear, become stretched beyond their normal range of motion, or even rupture.
Sprains can also occur when there’s a break in the surface where your foot lands. A blowout chip, crack, or other sharp edge can cause a sudden, direct impact to your foot. Sometimes, the outside of your ankle will hit the ground first before your inner leg follows suit. Other times, your foot may land first, followed by your ankle twisting outward. Either way, the inside of your ankle usually ends up absorbing a lot more force than the outer part. As a result, the inner part of your ankle can end up being pushed inward, causing pain and inflammation.
Even though sprains commonly occur when your ligaments are torn, damaged, or otherwise misaligned, it can still hurt to put weight on your ankle. Pain radiates from your ankle joint, along the back and front sides of your lower legs, and up into your lower back. Swelling occurs under your skin and underneath your socks. These symptoms are temporary, lasting only days to weeks. However, if left untreated, pain and swelling can worsen, becoming chronic and requiring surgery.
If you think you might have a sprained ankle, here are some signs to look for:
* Swollen ankle. Answering “yes” to any of these questions indicates possible swelling: Do your toes swell above your shoes? Does your sock feel tight around your ankle? Is your ankle larger than usual compared to other parts of your body?
* Stiffness. If you notice stiffness after standing, moving, or putting weight on your ankle, you have a sprained ankle.
* Muscle weakness. Feeling weak, tired, dizzy, nauseous, or lightheaded after sustaining a sprained ankle? These are warning signs indicating a potential concussion.
* Loss of balance. Falling down suddenly or having trouble keeping your balance? This could indicate a head injury caused by a fall, car accident, or another trauma.
* Severe bruising or bleeding. Bruising, cuts, and hematomas (blood clots) can develop over time after a sprain.
* Broken bone. Any kind of trauma can cause a bone to shatter, break, or dislocate.
* Deformity (bruise). A deformity is anything abnormal about your ankle, including bumps, lumps, discoloration, or a change in shape.
How do you know what kind of injury you have? Check out this quick guide to different types of ankle sprains.
What does an X-ray tell me about a sprain?
X-rays provide a clearer picture of the extent of your injury, whether you have a broken bone, and whether you’ve developed arthritis or other degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis. Since X-rays expose you to radiation, however, we recommend using X-rays as a last resort. Instead, try getting a better idea of what type of ankle sprain you have by looking closely at the following pictures:
* Graded ankle sprain scale. The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics uses this scale to determine the severity of a sprain.
* Calf muscle strain scale. After viewing pictures of several calf injuries, orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews created a scale to help identify the degree of strain in your calf muscles.
* Dorsal interosseous membrane (DIS) injury. The DIS connects your shinbone to your middle toe. A blow to your foot can cause a high-energy injury to this important stabilizer.
* Calcaneus apophysitis. Also known as heel spur syndrome, calcaneus apophysis results when a stress fracture develops in the area of your heel bone.
* Arthritis of the subtalar joint. Normally your foot rolls smoothly forward and backward with every step. If you have arthritis in your subtalar joint, however, your foot won’t roll correctly.
Should I See My Doctor?
Yes! While pain and swelling are natural responses to injury, both will persist longer than necessary without proper treatment. Don’t wait until your pain gets worse or your ankle swells to visit a doctor. The sooner you seek medical advice, the faster your recovery time will be.
When should I call my doctor?
You should always consult a physician if your pain lasts longer than two weeks, or if you cannot bear weight on your affected foot. Call 911 immediately if you have a broken bone, suspect a brain injury, or have concerns about safety.
Can I treat myself?
In most cases, yes! But you shouldn’t rely solely on home remedies. Make sure you take ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin are popular brands), apply ice packs, elevate your foot, use crutches, and avoid strenuous activity.
Don’t perform self-massage techniques on your own unless instructed by your doctor. If you have persistent pain, swelling, or discomfort, you’ll want to speak with your doctor right away. He or she can discuss treatment options and refer you to a specialist if needed.
Treatment varies according to the severity of your injury. Most sprains respond well to rest, ice, compression stockings, elevation, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication. Surgery may be required if your ligament tears significantly, or if you have a severely unstable ankle.
For more information on ankle sprains, check out this article from WebMD.
While ankle sprain treatments vary depending upon the severity of the injury, you’ll likely receive instructions to follow these general guidelines:
* Rest. Stay off your foot completely and reduce your daily activities as much as possible. Sleep on your elbow instead of sitting up straight in bed.
* Ice pack. Apply ice to your ankle twice a day for 15 minutes per session. Repeat this process three times a day.
* Compression sleeve. Wear a compression sleeve 24 hours a day. Although elastic bandages work, they can irritate your skin and make your ankle feel hot. Sleeves made of neoprene (wool knit fabric) or synthetic materials like polypropylene offer greater support and comfort.
* Elevation. Keep your foot elevated at least 30 degrees higher than your heart. This helps prevent blood pooling in your foot and reduces swelling.
* Physical Therapy. Use a foam roller or tennis ball to increase circulation. Take short walks to stretch your calves, Achilles tendons, and hip flexors.
* Anti-Inflammatory Medication. Apply an ointment such as Bengay or Actifed. Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) relieves pain and swelling. Naproxen sodium (Aleve) provides relief for arthritis pain and inflammation. Ask your doctor if taking aspirin increases the risk of stomach problems.
* Splints. If you wear a brace, make sure it has a firm arch support. Wearing a soft splint or poorly constructed brace can exacerbate pain and instability.
* Weight Bearing Exercise. Begin slowly with simple exercises like stair climbing and toe touches. Gradually progress to squats, lunges, heel raises, and heel slides.
* Strengthening Exercises. Strength training builds new bone tissue, strengthens connective tissues, improves flexibility, and restores muscular strength. Resistance bands, resistance tubing, and water bottles with handles are inexpensive ways to strengthen your ankles.
* Balance Exercises. Improve your balance with easy stretching exercises. Stand barefoot on a sturdy object like a countertop or chair. Lean slightly forward and raise your arms overhead. Then lean backwards, lifting your heels off
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