How to Manage Ankle Injuries

Slipping on the ice and twisting an ankle is a common accident this time of year.  Questions commonly arise regarding these injuries, including whether an individual needs to be evaluated by a medical professional and how these injuries are treated.

Ankle trauma should be promptly evaluated by a physician if a patient cannot bear any weight on the affected foot due to pain. This is concerning for a fracture, and XRays are needed to rule this out.  Other concerning findings include tenderness touching the BACK portion of the inside or outside ankle bone (medial or lateral malleolus), tenderness over the middle side of the foot (head of the 5th metatarsal) and/or tenderness over the top portion of the foot adjacent to the ankle (navicular bone). If any of these findings are present following an ankle injury, do not put weight on the extremity, and seek immediate medical care.

Many ankle injuries, however, do not fit into the above categories.  These are generally classified a sprains, and the most immediate goal is to reduce swelling.  The acronym RICE refers to what should be done initially following an injury:  Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.  Get off the affected ankle by using crutches, usually for the first two to three days.  Ice should be applied for 10-15 minutes every couple of hours, an elastic bandage should be snugly applied and the ankle should be elevated above the heart as much as possible.  Once the swelling is down, a brace or walking boot is used and range of motion and strengthening exercises with gradual weight bearing are begun.  It typically takes 6 weeks to completely heal from a sprain, depending on the severity of the injury.

Have a great holiday season, and stay safe out in our winter wonderland!

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