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How to Keep a Sprained Ankle from Becoming a Chronic Instability


Each day, more than 25,000 people in the United States sprain their ankles. Minor sprains are tempting to ignore. You just keep going through the pain and discomfort until the injury seems to heal.

If you have a more severe sprain, you may see a doctor initially to rule out a fracture or other injury, but fail to heed all of their advice and go back to your sport or other activities before your ankle is fully healed. 

But this seemingly courageous approach isn’t wise because you’ll pay for your bravado in the future if you damaged your ankle ligaments. 

Our team of podiatry specialists at Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois, serving patients in Springfield and central Illinois, routinely diagnoses and treats ankle injuries. We also see patients with old sprains that were ignored at the time and who now suffer from ankle instability. Come see us for help right after you sprain your ankle, and see your healing through to the end to avoid ankle instability.

About ankle sprains and strains

Knowing what type of ankle injury you have and when to seek medical attention can help you avoid serious, long-lasting injury.

A strain happens when you pull a muscle or a tendon. This injury is usually accompanied by a hot burning sensation and a spasming cramp. Strains are normally less serious than sprains, and usually won’t result in excessive bruising or swelling. Treat strains with the classic R.I.C.E. strategy of rest, ice, compression, and elevation, unless you suspect a tendon tear, rupture, or ligament slip.

A sprain is an injury to a ligament caused by overextension. Mild sprains stretch the ligaments, but moderate or severe sprains indicate that the ligament may be partially or fully torn. Not getting proper treatment for a torn ligament can cause chronic ankle instability, as the joint will continually be reinjured.

The bottom line is that you can’t self-diagnose your ankle injury. Come in to see one of our podiatrists for expert diagnosis and treatment -- that way your ankle can heal properly.

Best ways to treat ankle sprains

If your pain is intense and lasts 10-15 minutes after the incident, you likely have an ankle sprain. When you’re unable to walk or put weight on the injured area, you need immediate care. Swelling and bruising at the ankle are more red flags that you’ve had a more serious injury like a sprain.

A partially or fully torn ankle ligament can be serious, but often heals with rest, physical therapy, and time. Even full tears can be fully healed if the ankle is properly immobilized and precautions are taken to avoid reinjury.

We may recommend a cast-boot or short leg cast to provide stability and protection for the 6-8 weeks it can take to heal a severe sprain injury. Then the joint can be rehabilitated to restore full strength and mobility.

By seeking help from our experts as soon as possible, you can keep a sprained ankle from becoming chronically unstable. If you already suffer ankle instability due to improperly healed prior injuries, we can help with that, too. Call the Foot & Ankle Center of Illinois office most convenient to you or schedule an appointment online to make your ankles as strong and functional as possible.

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