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Hurt Your Ankle? Here's What You Should Do

Each year in the United States, more than 1 million people visit an emergency room because of an injured ankle. If you’ve hurt your ankle, knowing what to do next may make all the difference between a lengthy recovery with complications, and a swifter, less painful experience.

At Oexeman Foot and Ankle, PLLC, in Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Stephanie Oexeman and her team provide comprehensive care for ankle injuries so you can get the relief and healing you need.

Read on to learn more about ankle injuries, including smart steps to take and ways we can help.

Common ankle injuries

Ankle injuries can affect any part of your ankle, including your bones, ligaments, and tendons. Ligaments are the strong bands of elastic tissue that keep your ankle bones in place. Tendons attach your bones to your muscles to help keep your ankle joints stable.

Common ankle injuries include:

  • Cartilage damage
  • Fractures, or broken bones
  • Sprains, or injuries to a ligament
  • Tendon tears or strains

You can also experience shin splints, which cause pain and tenderness above your ankle.

How ankle injuries happen

Most any activity that twists or moves your ankle out of its normal position can lead to an ankle injury. Most hurt ankles happen during an athletic activity or while walking or running on an uneven surface. You may be more prone to an ankle injury while wearing loose-fitting sandals or high heels.

The direct cause of your ankle injury may involve falling or tripping, landing awkwardly from a jump, or twisting, rolling, or rotating your ankle. Your injury may also be the result of a sudden impact, such as a football tackle or car accident.

You can also hurt your ankle by using the joint repeatedly in a similar fashion over a long period of time. While these “wear and tear” injuries present symptoms gradually, acute injuries, like fractures and sprains, bring on sudden symptoms.

What to do about your hurt ankle

The sooner you seek medical care for your hurt ankle, the better your prognosis is likely to be. Once you notice symptoms of an ankle injury, even if you’re not sure of the severity, do your best to avoid putting weight on it. 

Signs it’s time to come into our office for an exam include:

  • Ankle instability
  • Ankle stiffness
  • Inability to bear weight or walk
  • Intense bruising in the area
  • Sudden or severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness to the touch

Leading up to your exam, you can support your healing with rest, elevation, and ice. Prop your affected ankle up on a pillow or furniture and apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 15-20 minutes at a time. Wait 40-45 minutes before reapplying ice, repeating the process as needed for reduced pain and swelling. If you don’t have an ice pack handy, a bag of frozen vegetables will do. 

After your exam, depending on the type and severity of your ankle injury, our team may recommend: 

  • Custom orthotics
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication
  • Physical therapy
  • A walking boot and/or crutches

Surgery is reserved for severe ankle injuries, such as a compound fracture or severe ligament damage from overuse.

To learn more about ankle conditions or to get the care you need, call our office or schedule an appointment through our website today.