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Pain Management Health Center

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Ankle Sprain

When to Seek Medical Care

Usually, an ankle sprain itself does not call for a trip to the doctor. The problem is how to tell a sprain from a more serious injury such as a fracture. If the following happen, you should contact your doctor:

  • Your pain is uncontrolled, in spite of over-the-counter medications, elevation, and ice.
  • You cannot walk or cannot walk without severe pain.
  • Your ankle fails to improve within 5-7 days. The pain need not be gone, but it should be improving.
  • A follow-up visit 1-2 weeks after the injury is advisable to help with flexibility and strengthening exercises.

The indications to go to a hospital's emergency department are similar to those for which to call the doctor. The following conditions suggest you might have a fracture, or you may need a splint for pain control.

  • Severe or uncontrolled pain
  • Foot or ankle is misshapen or extremely swollen
  • Cannot walk without pain
  • Severe pain when pressing over the medial or lateral malleolus, the bumps on each side of the ankle

Exams and Tests

The doctor will check to see if a fracture or other serious injury has happened to require immediate care.

  • The examination should make sure that you haven’t injured the nerves or arteries to the foot.
    • The doctor will handle and move the foot and ankle to determine what bony areas are involved.
    • The doctor will also check the Achilles tendon for signs of rupture.
  • X-rays are often, but not always, needed to make sure that a fracture is not present.

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