The Treatment For Ankle Sprains

THE HUMAN foot has 42 muscles, 33 joints, 26 bones, and at least 50 ligaments and tendons.

It is capable of handling your weight in motion every day. However, it is also one body part that has a high risk of injuries and other issues.

Ankle Injuries

Sprains are one of the most common forms of injury in our ankles. They are usually caused by accidental twisting of the ankle or due to sports activities. These injuries usually involve damaging of the ligaments where the outer or lateral ligaments stretch and tear, resulting in painful swelling, bruising and stiffness which may even hinder walking.

 Ankle sprain

Ankle injuries generally heal with time. They respond to simple measures such as resting, icing, elevation and compression with a simple bandage. Patients who do not respond well to such measures after a week are advised to visit a doctor.

An ankle injury may involve a fracture other than a ligament tear. Some patients have an occult fracture which can result from acute injuries that can happen during any type of activity. Occult fractures can be difficult to diagnose and these patients will be required to go for an X-ray or MRI scan.

“The most important thing in an ankle injury is to rule out a fracture,” says Dr Ooi Lai Hock, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Island Orthopaedic Consultants.

“Going for an X-ray is useful in initial acute setting, but once the recovery becomes prolonged, an MRI scan is warranted. It takes about 2-6 weeks to determine if a patient requires an MRI scan, which will show whether there is a significant ligament tear that requires surgery, cartilage injury that requires further treatment, or a missed fracture,” added Dr Ooi, who sub-specialises in joint replacements and foot and ankle surgery.


ankle sprains

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ankle sprains


In some serious cases such as inability to feel or move your foot, ankle or leg, experiencing severe pain, or if your foot is bent at an abnormal angle, you should consult a doctor immediately.

Uncommon Ankle Sprain Injuries

Sometimes, an ankle injury could be the result of other factors.

A high ankle ligament injury is usually due to the twisting of the ankle.

Inadequate care could result in further problems: Soft tissue impingement caused by chronic scarring of the ligaments due to inadequate immobilisation during the healing process, or taking part in sports activities before the injury is fully healed.

Chronic conditions such as arthritis could also cause bone impingement.

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ankle sprainTreatment And Recovery

A sprained ankle can hinder the ability to conduct daily activities and extreme care has to be taken to not injure the ankle further. If left untreated, the ankle sprain may lead to chronic ankle instability.

In general, treatment in the first 48 to 72 hours consists of resting the ankle, icing 20 minutes every two to three hours, compressing with an ACE wrap, and elevating, which means to position the leg and ankle so that the toes are above the level of the patient’s nose.

Patients who are unable to bear weight are better treated in a removable walking boot until they can comfortably do so.

Depending on the severity of the sprain, full recovery could take from 6 weeks to up to 4 months.

It is important to have adequate rest, suitable treatment and rehabilitation that will aid in speeding up the healing process.

During recovery, you can wriggle your toes or move your foot lightly whenever possible to keep it flexible. This will aid in stabilizing the injury and restore strength and balance quicker at a later stage.


Images: Shutterstock

Dr Ooi Lai Hock Island OrthopaedicDr Ooi Lai Hock is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, sub-specialicing in joint replacements, foot and ankle surgery at Island Orthopaedic Consultants. He was formerly Deputy Head and Consultant at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore. He was also the Division Chief of the Foot & Ankle, and Sports Medicine Services.
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