How to Recover from a Sprained Ankle with the Right New York Doctor
Causes and Symptoms of Sprained Ankles
Sprained ankles are the most frequent kind of musculoskeletal injury seen by doctors in New York City, and elsewhere, and can happen to anyone regardless of their age. Causes can include playing sports, falling down, wearing inappropriate footwear, or walking on an uneven surface.
Most times an ankle will be sprained when the foot suddenly twists or rolls and is in the following position: toes on the ground and heel up. The fibrous bands of tissue called ligaments that connect the lower leg to the foot may then become stretched or torn. Often, ankle sprains are temporary and the pain soon fades away, but sometimes when the symptoms persist, medical treatment is required.
There are two types of ankle sprain injury. In 70-85% of cases, an inversion sprain will arise where the foot is rolled inward and the pain predominantly occurs along the outer side of the ankle. If the ankle is rolled outward then an eversion sprain can occur with the pain predominantly on the inner side of the ankle, indicative of a more serious injury to the tendons or ligaments.
A high ankle sprain is a kind of eversion sprain where the ligament connecting the ankle with both bones of the lower leg (the tibia and fibula) is torn. More commonly caused by sporting accidents where there has been a sudden, forceful twisting of the foot, a high ankle sprain takes longer to heal, with the joint usually still painful more than six weeks after the original injury.
Symptoms of a mildly sprained ankle include swelling, tenderness and stiffness. With more severe cases there will be internal bleeding around the joint, visible as bruising, and walking will be very painful. Sometimes a ‘pop’ is heard at the time of injury. In the worst cases, the ankle feels wobbly and unstable, and gives out painfully when the injured person tries to walk. Repeated sprains can cause chronic joint pain and weakness, even arthritis.
Treatment and Recovery for Three Grades of Ankle Sprain
Ankle sprains are usually divided into three grades, I, II and III, depending on severity.
For all grades of ankle sprain, a three phase rehabilitation program ensures the ankle heals properly and is not injured again. This program can take two weeks to complete for mild sprains and up to twelve weeks for severe sprains.
During the first phase, the ankle is rested and protected, while the swelling abates. For the second phase attention focuses on restoring ankle strength, flexibility and range of motion. Phase three consists of a program of maintenance exercises designed to allow the patient to resume previous sports activities.
A Grade I sprain involves slight stretching and tearing of the ligament with mild tenderness and swelling around the ankle. For the first 48 to 72 hours, ice (applied indirectly), over-the-counter painkillers, and plenty of rest is all that is required, combined with a compression dressing and elevation of the ankle. During this period, the patient should avoid doing HARM: Heat, Alcohol, Running and Massage. Recovery of milder ankle sprains usually takes no more than a few weeks, and is hastened if the sprained joint can still be used without producing too much pain.
A Grade II sprain is diagnosed when one or more of the ligaments have partially torn, the ankle joint feels unusually loose, and there is moderate tenderness and swelling around the ankle. Treatment is the same as for a Grade I sprain, but more time should be allowed for a recovery and a doctor may advise the wearing of a boot to help strengthen and protect the joint.
For both Grade I and II sprains, the ability to walk should return after just a week or two. After six to eight weeks, normal use of the ankle will have returned; and after only a further four weeks, sporting activities can likely be resumed.
With a Grade III sprain, not only is there significant tenderness and swelling around the ankle, but the ligament can be completely torn and the ankle itself becomes unstable. However, even here, surgery is rarely required; sometimes instead a walking boot is worn for a week or two to immobilize the ankle and reduce pain and swelling followed by a lace up ankle brace that fits into a sneaker.
Physiotherapy, to restore movement and function to the joint, may also be prescribed if symptoms are not abating. Recovery from a Grade III sprain will take longer, usually between eight months to a year, with the risk that pain and instability problems persist long-term.
Choosing The Right New York Sprained Ankle Doctor
A sprained ankle rarely requires seeking medical advice. However, if severe pain and swelling persists around the area of your ankle, in spite of using pain medication and ice, or walking is impossible, and your ankle has not improved after a week, then it is probably time to consult a medical professional.
It is often difficult, even for professionals, to discern between an ankle sprain and a fracture, which is why it is far better to choose a specialist orthopedist over a general practitioner. One excellent New York doctor for a sprained ankle is Dr. David Levine, MD, who is the Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, the #1 for Orthopedics in the Nation. Dr. Levine has a wealth of experience in dealing with a whole range of foot and ankle injuries and is the first choice for consulting on New York ankle sprains.
A sprained ankle doctor or physician assistant will perform a physical examination, moving and handling the foot and ankle to determine the range of motion, which will be minimal if your ankle is very stiff and swollen. Pressing gently around your ankle will reveal which ligaments are injured, and an overall assessment of swelling, pain and bruising will determine the severity of the sprain.
If the sprain appears severe, the doctor will request X-rays, possibly a MRI scan, to verify whether the injured foot contains fractured or displaced bones, or torn ligaments. The results from these X-rays will determine the remedial course of action required to get you back to walking and playing sports again.