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Ankle Injuries: Causes and Treatments

Treatment of Sprains

The treatment for sprains depends on the severity of the injury.  They are graded as mild, moderate, or severe. Surgery is not usually a treatment option unless the damage is extensive, involves more than the ligaments, or when other treatment options fail.

Mild sprains -- called grade 1 -- are treated with the RICE approach for several days until the pain and swelling improve. With a mild sprain, you won't need a splint or a cast. Your doctor will tell you to put weight on the ankle fairly soon -- within one to three days -- as long as you can tolerate it and will prescribe range of motion, stretching, and strengthening exercises.

If your sprain is classified as moderate, or grade 2, the doctor will use the RICE approach but allow more time for healing to occur. The doctor may also use a device such as a boot or a splint to immobilize the ankle. You will be given exercises to do first to improve range of motion and then to stretch and strengthen the ankle. The doctor may also prescribe physical therapy to help you regain full use of your ankle.

Grade 3 or a severe sprain involves a complete tear or rupture of a ligament and takes considerably longer to heal. It's treated with immobilization of the joint followed by a longer period of physical therapy for range of motion, stretching, and strength building. Occasionally, especially if the sprain does not heal in a reasonable time, surgery will be considered for reconstructing the torn ligaments.

On average, the initial treatment of a sprain, includes resting, and protecting the ankle until swelling goes down for about one week. That's followed by a period of one to two weeks of exercise to restore range of motion, strength, and flexibility. It can take several more weeks to several months to gradually return to your normal activities while you continue to exercise.

Treatment of Tendon Injuries

Options for treating tendon injuries are similar to options for treating sprains. They include:

  • Immobilization using a cast or splint
  • Oral or injected anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain
  • Physical therapy for range of motion, strength, and balance
  • A brace to provide support during activities
  • Surgery to repair the tendon or tendons and sometimes to repair the supporting structures of the foot

 

Can Ankle Injuries Be Prevented?

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends the following steps for reducing your risk of an ankle injury:

  • Avoid exercising or playing sports when you are tired or in pain.
  • Keep muscles strong by eating a well-balanced diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Try to avoid falling.
  • Wear shoes that fit well and that are appropriate for the activity you are doing.
  • Don't wear shoes that have heels worn down on one side.
  • Exercise every day.
  • Maintain the proper conditioning for whatever sport you are playing.
  • Warm up and stretch before exercising or playing a sport.
  • Wear the proper equipment for whatever sport you play.
  • Run on flat surfaces.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Karolee Stauduhar, PT on August 09, 2012

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