Three of the Most Common Ankle Injuries (and How to Treat Them)
BY HANNAH ROPP
Ankle Sprains, Strains and Fractures: When to See a Doctor
Ankle sprains, strains and fractures are among the most common orthopedic injuries. While they are most often seen as a sports injury, you don’t have to be an athlete to hurt your ankle. Something as simple as walking on an uneven surface can cause you to turn your ankle and cause an injury.
In many cases, you may be able to treat your ankle injury at home. Orthopedic surgeons Mitchell Cooper, MD, with LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, and Jason Rudolph, MD, with Coordinated Health, part of Lehigh Valley Health Network, offer some ways you can differentiate between strains, sprains and fractures and when it’s time for you to see a doctor.
An ankle strain occurs when the muscles and tendons around the ankle joint are stretched too far. Symptoms of an ankle strain include pain, swelling and muscle spasms. Cooper says that ankle strains are most often treated at home. “Some ankle muscle strains can be treated at home but if you have severe pain or inability to bear weight, then you should be evaluated in the office,” Cooper says.
Ankle sprains are very common and occur whenever your ligaments (tissue that connects bone to bone) are stretched. The severity of ankle sprains ranges from mild to severe and while the symptoms are similar to a strain, Rudolph says there are a few differences. “Ankle sprains tend to be a little more severe and therefore may require more treatment. The symptoms are similar to those seen with ankle strains, but also include limited mobility and difficulty with walking, standing or movement. In addition to using the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method, you may benefit from having your ankle immobilized in a brace or wrap for a short period of time,” he says.
Rudolph says that if you suspect you have an ankle sprain, you should see an orthopedic specialist since it could require treatment.
According to Cooper, ankle fractures are more severe than ankle strains or sprains and require immediate treatment. He explains that a fracture occurs when there’s a complete or partial break due to trauma. The big difference that you would notice with an ankle fracture is that you wouldn’t be able to put any weight on your ankle. You would also have swelling, bruising and severe pain.
Cooper says that the severity of your ankle fracture would dictate your treatment plan, which could range from immobilization to surgery.
Preventing ankle injuries
While some ankle injuries are unavoidable, both Cooper and Rudolph agree that there are a few things that you can do to reduce your risk. Some of their ankle injury prevention tips include:
Build muscle strength by taking part in a conditioning program
Wear appropriate footwear
Warm up before activity
For more information on joint replacements or to make your same day appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, call 888-402-LVHN or go to LVHN.org/sportsmedicineappointment.