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Health & Wellness

The Ankle Heal: Sprained Ankles 101

by Asma Khan, MD
The summer is full of awkward physical moments. You might lose your balance on a hike, fall the wrong way on the court, or just step the wrong way taking a stroll. All of which can sometimes result in an ankle sprain. Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries-–around 25,000 people sprain their ankle every day! So, if you find yourself with a sprained ankle, here are some helpful tips to get you back on your feet in no time.

What Is a Sprained Ankle?

An ankle sprain happens when one or more ligaments on the outside of the ankle are stretched or torn. The most common type of sprain is called an inversion sprain, which occurs when the ankle is rolled inward and there is pain on the outer side. Pain on the ankle’s inner side is usually a sign of a more severe injury to the tendons or ligaments that support the foot’s arch; it should always be evaluated by a medical professional.
You’re most likely to sprain your ankle when your toes are on the ground and your heel is up, as this puts your ankle’s ligaments under tension. A sudden force, like landing on an uneven surface, may turn your ankle inward and hurt one or more of your ligaments.

Treating an Ankle Sprain

An easy way to remember how to treat an ankle sprain is by following the R.I.C.E. guidelines. These easy steps will help you recover quickly and prevent chronic pain and instability.

  • Rest your ankle by not walking on it and limiting how much weight it bears. Use crutches if necessary, or an ankle brace that will help control swelling and add stability.
  • Ice the ankle to keep swelling down and numb the area. Put a thin piece of cloth between the ice and the skin, and don’t ice for more than 20 minutes at a time to avoid frostbite.
  • Compression can also help control swelling and support the injury. Apply a compression wrap just behind the toes and spiral up towards the heart, overlapping around the foot and ankle.
  • Elevate the foot by reclining and propping it up higher than heart-level.

After you’ve rested and reduced the swelling of your sprained ankle, slowly start to restore flexibility by increasing its range of motion and strength. Gradually, you’ll be able to return to normal activities.

Ankle Sprains: What You Need to Know

Every ligament injury needs treatment. Otherwise, it may not be able to heal completely, and re-injury will be more likely. It’s always important to tell your doctor exactly what you were doing when you sprained your ankle. That way your doctor will know if an x-ray is necessary to see if there are any broken bones. More than likely, your doctor will simply be able to prescribe a few rehabilitation exercises.
To prevent sprained ankles in the future, pay attention to your body’s warning signs and slow down when you feel pain or fatigue. This will help you stay in shape with good muscle balance, flexibility, and strength in your soft tissues. So get out there and enjoy the rest of summer sprain-free!

Asma Khan, MD, is the Clinical Director at HRHCare Urgent Care, 84 N Highland Ave between High Street and Sickles Ave in Nyack. Along with offices in Haverstraw and Spring Valley, the facility is part of the 28 health center HRHCare network in the Hudson Valley and Long Island providing comprehensive primary care.

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