Ankle sprains are one of the most common orthopedic injuries and affect roughly 25,000 people daily worldwide. Ankle sprain in simpler words is defined as injury of the tough band known as ligaments that attach foot bones to leg bones at the ankle joint. Ligaments have a range of motion and when they surpass their range during an accident or ankle twist, they tend to tear apart leading to ankle sprain. Ankle sprains are painful and be a hurdle in performing the daily routine tasks.
According to a report by Sports Health, Published online December 28, 2015, “Lateral ankle sprains are among the most common injuries in competitive sports and recreational activities. Many studies have shown that bruised ankle10% to 30% of all athletic injuries are ankle injuries. In high-risk sports, ankle sprains account for 70% or more of all reported ankle injuries. Ankle sprains are often only partially treated. More than 40% of ankle sprains are recurrent, and this can lead to chronic ankle instability (CAI) and ankle osteoarthritis.”
Ankle sprains although are more common in athletes yet affect people of all professions and age groups and if left untreated may lead to long-term complications. Let’s have a look at the management of this common orthopedic injury.
Management and treatment of sprain depends upon the degree of tear or the grade of injury. Milder sprains are manageable at home while severe form of injury needs proper investigations and follow-up at the orthopedic clinic.
Conservative management helps in treating mild to moderate injuries. It may take 2-3 weeks before the sprain completely heals. Conservative management at home includes:
ICING: Cold packing or icing helps in doing away with the swelling. It is ideal to do it every hour initially followed by 4 to 5 times daily later on. Apply it for not more than 15mins to avoid burn or frost bite.
FOOT ELEVATION: Keeping the injured area higher helps the body to absorb back all the fluid leading to swelling. It is possible to achieve this by using a couple of pillows down the foot in order to have proper elevation.
REST: Bringing ankle joint to rest surely helps in healing the ligaments faster. This can be achieved through proper bed rest and ankle braces.
MEDICATION: Over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics like NSAIDS (Ibuprofen) help in overcoming the pain and inflammation. Topical gels and analgesics may also help in relieving the pain.
If there is severe injury, then consultation with an orthopedic surgeon is necessary to avoid any permanent complication. Indications of severe injury include:
Inability to bear body weight.
Severe pain that doesn’t subside by oral analgesics.
Massive swelling not reduced by cold packing and foot elevation.
In the aforementioned scenarios, it is important to perform thorough examinations. Then based on the need proper POP CAST must be given instead of ankle bracing to provide complete immobility of the joint for proper healing. More over intra muscular analgesics can also be used for pain management. The last resort is surgical management to prevent re-occurrences.
After the swelling has subsided, physiotherapy helps in maintaining joint flexibility and strength. Range of exercises must be followed for weeks in order to strengthen up the muscles.
In most cases ankle sprains are not very serious and tend to heal within weeks yet it is advised to follow proper management of sprains in order to avoid any mishap in future.