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.