Maybe you slipped and fell, or maybe you took an awkward step. Whatever the incident, now you have a sore, swollen ankle.

Sprained ankles are some of the most common musculoskeletal injuries. They range in severity, but if your pain isn’t severe, does it really need treatment?

Ignoring a sprained ankle could increase your risk for suffering more sprains and developing chronic ankle instability. The good news is treatment doesn’t have to be complicated. At Mountain View Foot & Ankle Institute in South Ogden, Utah, David B. Glover, DPM, FACFAS, and our team are experts in helping people recover from sprained ankles.

What happens when you sprain your ankle?

Tough bands of tissue called ligaments hold your joints together. Joints are naturally flexible, but ligaments offer essential stability and strength to keep them secure as you bend and move.

A sprain is an injury that happens when ligaments extend outside their usual range. You might suffer a sprained ankle if you twist, roll, or turn your ankle in an awkward step or a fall.

The ligaments supporting your ankle can stretch or tear, and ankle sprains can range from mild to moderate to severe. Most sprains are obvious at the time of injury. Symptoms may develop over the next several hours, and common symptoms include:

  • Ankle pain, particularly when standing
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Reduced range of motion

Your ankle is surrounded by protective ligaments. While any of them can suffer a sprain, it’s the ligaments on the outside of your ankle that are most often affected.

A sprain puts you at risk for chronic ankle instability

Severe ankle sprains can make it nearly impossible to bear weight on the affected foot, forcing you to seek medical care. But minor sprains might cause only mild discomfort, and you could be tempted to ignore the injury.

No matter how minor your sprained ankle might seem, it’s very important to treat it. Sprains stretch the ligaments in your ankle, and up to 20% of people who sprain their ankles continue to have joint stability issues after the injury.

Spraining an ankle can put you at risk of developing chronic ankle instability. If you have chronic ankle instability, you’ll be more likely to experience future sprains, ankle pain, and other foot and ankle problems.

Treating your sprained ankle and giving it adequate time to heal is the best way to avoid complications down the road.

Caring for a sprained ankle

Any time you experience foot and ankle pain, you should consider getting a professional diagnosis to help your body heal and reduce your risk of future injuries.

Dr. Glover is an expert in diagnosing and treating sprained ankles. He’ll evaluate the severity of your sprain and use diagnostic imaging to rule out an ankle fracture, if necessary.

Mild sprains generally respond well to a few days of at-home care. If your sprain is mild, Dr. Glover may recommend following the RICE protocol. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. He’ll show you how to compression-wrap your ankle and care for it as you recover. He may also recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to help manage any pain.

If your sprain is moderate, he may also recommend physical therapy. If you have a severe tear, Dr. Glover may recommend surgery.

Have you suffered a sprain? Get the care you need to get back on your feet by booking an appointment online or over the phone with Mountain View Foot & Ankle Institute today.