Whether you are a professional athlete, weekend warrior, or just joined your neighborhood pickleball team, if there is one universal certainty about sports, it’s that sports injuries can and will happen. While there is no shortage of different sports injuries that can sideline you, one of the most common and most difficult to handle daily is a sprained ankle.
Ankle sprains can vary in terms of severity, but the good news is, they are very treatable. Here at our Laurel chiropractic office, sprained ankles are some of the most common injuries we come across. And while no one ever wants to deal with a sprained ankle, it is important to know how to identify this type of sports injury when it happens, and how to treat it safely right at home.
The more you know about sprained ankles, and how to treat them when they happen, the better prepared you will be in case you come face-to-face with these injuries in the future.
What is a Sprained Ankle?
A sprained ankle is an injury that occurs when you twist, roll, or turn your ankle in a direction other than the way it is intended. When this happens it can stretch or tear through the tough bands of tissues known as ligaments that help hold your ankle bones together.
Your ligaments are important. They stabilize your ankle joint and prevent excessive or abnormal movement. When these ligaments are forced beyond their normal range of motion, it’s what we call a “sprained ankle.” While every sprained ankle is different, most involve injuries to the ligaments on the exterior side of the ankle.
Understanding what this type of injury is first will make it easier to identify this injury when it occurs. Sprained ankles may seem fairly innocuous, but they can also hurt, a lot, and sometimes be mistaken for a break or a different type of injury.
The reason this happens is because there are different grades or levels of sprains, this includes the following.
Grade 1 Sprain (Mild): Slight stretching to the ligaments and some damage to the fibers of the ligament, also known as the fibrils. There may be a very small tear in some Grade 1 sprains. Your ankle will have minor swelling and tenderness to the touch.
Grade 2 Sprain (Moderate): Partial tearing of the ligament, but it isn’t a complete tear. When the ankle joint moves in certain ways, you may notice abnormal looseness of the ankle joint. Your ankle has swelling over the injury and it will hurt to move.
Grade 3 Sprain (Severe): This involves a complete tear of the ligament. Your ankle will have significant swelling and be very painful. Walking will be difficult.
The good news is, sprained ankles often heal on their own and while they can be very painful, they heal much faster and better than broken bones. However, before you start on the road to recovery, it’s important to have a diagnosis.
How to Diagnose a Sprained Ankle
So, how can you tell that you have a sprained ankle? There are a few tell-tale signs. This can include:
- Popping sound or sensation at the time of injury.
- Throbbing pain throughout the ankle
- Tenderness when touching the ankle
- Pain particularly when bearing weight on the affected foot
- Bruising around the foot and ankle
- Restricted range of motion and instability
The “popping” sensation is one of the most notable signs that you’re dealing with a sprained ankle. Many people hear the noise and assume they have broken or dislocated something. However, the popping noise is indicative of a sprain or tear of the ligaments.
These injuries most commonly come from falls that cause you to twist your ankle, landing awkwardly on your foot after jumping, walking, or moving on an uneven surface. If you are playing sports, a common way to sustain a sprained ankle is having another person step or land on your foot.
If you experience this type of injury and hear a popping noise, it’s most likely a sign of a sprained ankle.
While most mild to moderate sprained ankles can be managed through self-care and treated at home, it’s still smart to get a medical evaluation, especially if the sprained ankle is causing pain that significantly impacts your overall quality of life.
A visit to your chiropractor is a great start. They can give you a full examination, determine whether or not you’re dealing with a sprain, and even take x-rays to make sure that they rule out a potential break. Your chiropractor will also help you with the proper treatment so you can get on the road to recovery and back to feeling your best.
How Do You Treat A Sprained Ankle?
If you have been diagnosed with a sprained ankle, it’s important to start caring for your sports injury right away. In our Laurel, MD chiropractic office, we abide by the PRICE method, an easy-to-remember acronym for a faster-sprained ankle recovery.
The PRICE method should be applied at least for 24-48 hours after injury, and possibly longer depending on the severity of your injury. PRICE stands for protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Here’s how it works.
Protection. Protecting your injury is of the utmost importance. You need to stay off your sprained ankle will give it time to heal. Use crutches or apply a sprint or brace to the injury to limit the use of your injured ankle and protect it.
Rest. Limit physical activities that may cause stress to your sprain. Just like protection, rest is essential to giving your body time to heal. Restrict any physical activities that may cause stress to the sprain, which means no running, jumping, or exercising.
Ice. When it comes to treating sprained ankles, ice is your best friend, not only for pain management but to reduce swelling. Apply ice, a cold pack, or submerge your ankle entirely in an ice bucket. The best approach to icing is to do it in 20-minute increments.
Compression. Gently wrap your injured ankle in an elastic bandage to help decrease swelling. Remember a compression wrap will not offer extra stability, or protect the ankle, it is there for compression. You should wear the wrap when you are not icing and plan on putting it on in the morning and removing it at bedtime.
Elevation. Raise your ankle on pillows while you’re sitting or lying down so that it’s higher than your heart. Whenever you are sitting or lying down, make sure that your injured ankle is higher than your heart.
Staying on a strict PRICE protocol is the best way to treat your sprained ankle and make sure you not only help treat the pain associated with this injury but help with bruising, and swelling and promote faster healing.
If you aren’t noticing relief after a few days, then make sure to check in with your healthcare provider for a follow-up. Here at our Laurel, MD chiropractic office, we see a lot of athletes with sprained ankles and are committed to helping them during and after their injuries. If you have questions about sprained ankles or other sports injuries that may be impacting your performance, give our office a call at 301-776-0755 to schedule an appointment today or book a same-day appointment right online.