Imagine an attempt at a graceful pirouette goes badly, a mad dash up a flight of stairs takes an awkward turn or maybe you just trip over your own two feet in the middle of the street. Any of these blunders can lead to an ankle sprain, a common injury that causes unpleasant symptoms such as redness, pain and swelling.
Dr. Rahn Ravenell of Coastal Podiatry is no stranger to treating ankle sprains, as well as educating his patients on how to prevent similar injuries down the road. According to Dr. Ravenell, most anyone can suffer a sprained ankle, from seasoned athletes to pedestrians simply enjoying a walk in downtown Charleston. A sprained ankle can be caused by any impact injury, including a twisted ankle.
"Common ways to sprain an ankle include participating in sporting activities with high impact or anything that involves running or jumping," Dr. Ravenell explained. "However, another common way [to sprain an ankle] is by stepping off of a curb or even just by wearing unstable shoes. It happens frequently on our cobblestone streets in Charleston."
Should you suspect a sprain, it's best to have the ankle looked at right away by a medical professional.
"You'll know you sprained your ankle if there is pain, instability or swelling in the front or outside of the ankle," Dr. Ravenell commented. "If one believes the ankle has been sprained, the best course of action would be to seek medical attention."
Of course, getting an appointment with an experienced physician may take a little time. So what should a patient do to alleviate the pain and swelling if an appointment is not immediate? A method known as RICE – meaning rest, ice, compression and elevation – is recommended in these cases. Since a sprain is a ligament injury, expect anywhere from four to six weeks before the ligaments are fully repaired – and stay off the ankle.
After healing takes place, it's important to make sure that another injury does not soon follow, since you are more likely to sprain the ankle again after injuring it once, according to Dr. Ravenell. Especially in the case of repetitive athletic activity, it's important to prevent future sprains.
"A sprained ankle damages the ligaments in such a way that once you've sprained your ankle one time, you are more likely to sprain it again," the doctor pointed out. "Sometimes, with chronic ankle sprains, the ankle becomes so unstable that surgery is necessary to repair (the ligaments) and stabilize the ankle."
So what can all of us do to prevent ankle injury? Besides just being careful on those cobblestone streets, it's important to take a look at the quality and support of your footwear. And, if sprains have been chronic, it might be time to consider other measures.
"For a patient with chronic sprains, I might recommend ankle braces for activity," said Dr. Ravenell. "Physical therapy to help strengthen and stabilize the ankle ligaments and the tendons surrounding the ankle might also be necessary."