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Preventing Chronic Instability After an Ankle Sprain

Preventing Chronic Instability After an Ankle Sprain

It doesn't matter if you're an athlete or a mom-on-the-go; no one wants to deal with a bum ankle. But that's what's in store if you don't manage a sprain properly. 

Here, foot and ankle specialist Dr. Maurice Aiken and our Bay Breeze Foot & Ankle Specialists team walk you through simple strategies for preventing sprains from becoming a daily nightmare. 

Start with the basics

You've likely heard of the RICE protocol if you've ever had an injury. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. 

It may sound elementary, but these simple steps can greatly improve the recovery of a sprained ankle. 

Here’s a play-by-play. 

Rest

You should rest your ankle as much as possible for at least 24-48 hours. In the case of severe sprains, we recommend you continue resting using crutches or other assistive devices. 

Ice

Apply a cold compress or bag of ice wrapped with a towel to your ankle for 15-20 minutes 3-5 times a day. Never place ice directly on your skin. 

Compression

A sprained ankle is usually swollen, so we recommend wrapping your ankles with a stretchy bandage or ankle sleeve to control swelling and stabilize your ankle. You can find compression tools at any local drugstore. 

Elevation

Another way to control swelling is to elevate your ankle. While resting, prop your foot up on a stool or place a pillow under your foot. 

Don’t walk it off

We should be your first call after spraining your ankle. It would help if you did not consider sprained ankles a minor injury that will heal independently. 

Dr. Aiken is the only one who can tell you how severe your sprain is and give you detailed instructions on moving forward safely. The longer you wait for treatment, the more you risk your sprained ankle turning into a life-long instability. 

Your appointment with our team begins with a physical evaluation and discussion of your injury and symptoms. Next, we test your ankle's strength, range of motion, and flexibility. If necessary, we order additional diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI.

Then, we create a treatment plan tailored to your needs. Depending on the severity of your ankle sprain, our recommendations may include: 

Only the most severe sprains that result in complete tears of your ligaments require surgical intervention

Focus on strength and support

Once you've fully healed from the injury, it's time to get your ankle back into shape. That mainly means strengthening the muscles surrounding your ankle to prevent and stabilize further injury. 

Physical therapy is often the best way to do this. Your physical therapist takes you through exercises that restore range of motion, improve balance, and rehabilitate your ankle. 

Trust the process

Even seemingly minor injuries, like sprained ankles, need time to heal. Mild sprains usually don't heal fully for four weeks, while severe sprains may require months of rehabilitation to return to normal. 

All you can do is be patient and follow your treatment plan as closely as possible. Doing so gives your ankle a greater chance of recovery and reduces the risk of dealing with chronic instability. 

If you've sprained your ankle and want to see an ankle specialist, don't hesitate to call or click to schedule an appointment with Dr. Aiken at our Dunedin, Florida, office today.

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