When to Seek Medical Treatment for Your Rolled Ankle

by Medical XPress

Woman in pink running shoes holding injured ankleAnkle injuries are extremely common, especially in the physically active. All it takes is a small stumble while out on a walk, a loose stone while hiking, or misplaced foot while playing a sport, and you can quickly find yourself on the ground. Of course, most rolled ankles aren’t a serious problem; a few minutes of discomfort in the joint, and you’ll soon find yourself “walking it off” like your coach used to tell you to do. But how do you know when that rolled ankle is something more serious? How long should you wait for the pain to subside before you seek medical treatment? Here are some tips to tell the difference between a rolled ankle and a more serious injury.

Immediate Pain Is Severe

The pain of a rolled ankle can be a bit of a shock at first, but it should subside quickly. If it does, and you can get yourself on your feet and walking again (even with a bit of a limp), then you’re most likely okay without medical attention. However, if your ankle pain is severe enough that you can’t bear weight on it within a few minutes, then your injury may be something worse than a simple twisted ankle.

There’s a Visible Injury

Some minor swelling around the joint isn’t usually cause for concern. However, if you experience immediate and serious swelling or bruising around the joint, you should seek immediate medical attention. Additionally, if there is some other kind of clear, visible injury, such as an open wound or severe deformity in the joint, go to an emergency room.

RICE Doesn’t Offer Relief

Just as rice seems to be the answer to all of your technology woes, RICE is a reliable method for dealing with many minor injuries, including sprained ankles. RICE is an acronym that stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If you’ve turned your ankle, rest the joint, ice it, wrap it (compression), and elevate it above your waist. This should help the pain and swelling significantly.

If this method doesn’t work, and the pain and swelling does not go down after a couple of days, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. However, if the RICE method helps you to feel better, and you see improvement in the joint’s mobility and strength, you likely don’t need to see a doctor.

You Heard a Pop or Felt Tearing

If you heard a pop or felt tearing in your ankle as you fell, this is not something that you should try to “walk off”. It’s likely that you tore a tendon or ligament in your ankle when you twisted it, and you will likely need medical assistance (and possibly physical therapy) in order to recover. In these cases, it’s best to seek immediate medical attention at an urgent care or emergency room, rather than trying to make an appointment with your regular physician.

You Develop Signs of Infection

Even if your injury doesn’t seem serious at first, it’s still possible to develop signs of an infection in the days that follow. If your ankle becomes red, tender, and warm to the touch, or if you develop a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Change in Sensations in Your Foot

This usually occurs in those who try to treat an ankle injury at home, but it turns out to be something more serious. If you begin to experience odd sensations in your injured foot that are similar to the “pins and needles” of a limb falling asleep, this is a clear sign that you need to seek medical attention. Similarly, if there’s a sudden loss of feeling in the injured ankle and foot, you should see a doctor right away. These usually indicate a much larger issue than a simple twist or sprain, and it requires professional help.

Treating a Sprain at Home

If, after reading this article, you’re confident that your ankle injury is a minor one that can be treated at home, please be sure to follow the RICE method described above. It’s generally recommended that an injured ankle be given four to six weeks of rest before gradually working your way up to previous activity levels. While this may seem like a long time (especially if you’re a very active individual), please keep in mind that this period of rest will help to prevent a more serious injury.

When you do resume some level of activity, consider wearing an ankle brace. Remember, even if the injury was not severe, your ankle joint is now less stable than it was before. Using a brace will give the joint the extra support it needs until it’s back up to its full strength and stability.

If you need an ankle brace, call or stop by one of our many Texas locations to see what we have in stock!