How To Treat Ankle Injuries – and Avoid Them
The ankle is an easy target for injury, thanks to its complex anatomy. You can twist your ankle while running on a soccer field, but even taking a misstep off a curb can cause problems.
The joint is made up of tendons, ligaments, bone and muscle, and when we step awkwardly, the force travels through the joint. When we injure our ankles, the grade of injury is often determined by the pressure exerted at the time of the accident.
Most Common Ankle Injuries
The most common ankle injuries are sprains, which can happen when you are walking and simply not paying attention. Ankles fractures, tendon tears and ligament problems are also possible. Begin treating an ankle injury with the R.I.C.E. guidelines:
Rest your ankle and try not to walk on it.
Ice your ankle to help keep the swelling down.
Compress your ankle to help reduce swelling.
Elevate your foot as you rest your injury.
If you have extended swelling, pain and bruising, you should see an orthopedist who specializes in ankles.
What To Expect From an Orthopedist Visit
Physical Exam — Your doctor will perform a physical exam, looking at the injury and your range of motion. They will also want to see the weight you can place on your ankle.
X-ray — An X-ray is often taken in the office to help quickly determine the extent of the injury.
Anti-inflammatory medication — Many patients have already tried an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs like Advil or Motrin) for swelling before seeking medical attention. Your doctor may give you a prescription for a stronger anti-inflammatory medication.
Rehabilitation — Your doctor can prescribe physical therapy as part of your treatment plan.
If pain persists, your doctor can order an MRI to better understand what is happening inside your ankle.
Successful Recovery Is in Your Hands
Rehabilitation or surgery is sometimes the only way to heal the ankle. It can often be four or five months of rehabilitation before your ankle is fully healed.
Physical therapists will work with you on range of motion. You may need to start work on regaining range of motion before putting weight on your leg. Your physical therapist can come up with creative ways to work through this first hurdle together.
The focus then shifts to balancing. Strength will often be the last point of emphasis.
With good rehabilitation, you can regain the use of your ankle, but managing your expectations is critical for success. Unlike professional athletes, most of us cannot spend eight hours a day rehabbing an injury.
You will need to put time and effort into the healing process to get the best recovery possible.
Tips To Avoid Injury
The best way to avoid injury is to be proactive.
If you have persistent ankle issues, consider strengthening the ankle instability to prevent injury. Stretching before strenuous activities can also be helpful. Become more familiar with your limitations as your body ages and joints start to perform differently. And if you suspect an injury, don’t try to walk it off. See a doctor as soon as possible.
The longer you wait, the harder it will be to return to normal activity.