An ankle sprain is more serous than you might think. Here’s why, according to an orthopaedic surgeon – and how to treat a sprained ankle if it happens to you.
Don’t ignore the pain!
Though an ankle sprain very often occurs during sports activities, you certainly don’t have to be an athlete to over-stretch, or even tear, the ligaments around your ankle joint. All it takes is a sudden pivot, walking or stepping on an uneven surface, landing awkwardly after jumping or simply wearing high heels for the ankle to roll inward or outward, resulting in pain, swelling, and bruising, explains DR KEVIN KOO, director and consultant surgeon at The Bone & Joint Centre. You may even find that you can’t walk or bear weight on a sprained ankle.
But, don’t shrug off an ankle sprain, no matter how trivial you think it might be. According to Dr Koo, RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) treatment can help reduce pain and swelling, as can pain medication. However, these self-treatments alone won’t cut it long-term. If left untreated, a badly sprained ankle can lead to ankle joint instability – the feeling that your ankle is giving way. This, in turn, predisposes the joint to further complications including cartilage damage and eventual osteoarthritis – both of which can have major impacts on mobility.
So, in addition to ice and rest, Dr Koo advises physiotherapy to help strengthen the ankle and restore movement. Most importantly, though, he recommends seeking medical attention early on. Doing so can help minimise and even prevent additional problems from occurring. A doctor can make sure that the proper investigations – for example, x-rays or MRI – are done, verify that no underlying injuries are left undetected and ensure that appropriate treatment is given.
Treatment for a sprained ankle
Sometimes, all it takes is physiotherapy for sprained ankle treatment. But, for patients who find that they cannot resume their normal activities after rounds of physiotherapy, surgical treatment may be necessary to repair the injured tissues and stabilise the ankle joint.
Luckily, these days it’s possible to stabilise the ankle, and repair ligaments and cartilage arthroscopically with keyhole surgery. It’s a method that Dr Koo often prefers over more traditional open-surgery procedures that tend to be more painful post-op. However, he says that different techniques have their pros and cons; the choice really depends on the size and depth of the damaged area. An orthopaedic surgeon can advise on the appropriate solution for you if you’ve got an ankle sprain injury.
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