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When Does a Sprained Ankle Warrant Expert Evaluation and Care?

You’re moving along when you feel a twist or collapse of your ankle, followed by pain. If you know those sensations well, you’re likely one of the two million Americans who experience a sprained ankle each year. 

Given those numbers, ankle sprains are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries. And once it happens, appropriate care is very important for your healing and function. But do all sprained ankles require treatment from a professional?

At Oexeman Foot and Ankle, PLLC, in Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Stephanie Oexeman and her team diagnose and treat ankle conditions, including sprains of all severities.

Let’s delve into this common injury, including when to seek expert support.

Ankle sprain basics

A sprained ankle happens when you roll, turn, or twist the joint in an abrupt and awkward way — beyond a healthy range of motion. The action can stretch or even tear the ligaments in your ankle, resulting in a painful sprain.

While sprained ankles can affect any ligaments in your ankle, they most often affect your outer ligaments.

Depending on the severity of your sprain, your symptoms may include: 

  • Ankle instability
  • Bruising
  • Pain that worsens when you bear weight
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Swelling
  • A popping sound or sensation when your injury happened 

A mild sprain may cause only mild pain, with no bruising or difficulty bearing weight. If your ankle sprain causes a full ligament tear or rupture, however, you probably won’t be able to bear any weight on it at all. Many sprained ankles fall somewhere in between.

When to seek expert care for your sprained ankle

Any time you show signs of an ankle sprain, it’s wise to speak with a specialist. If your symptoms are more than mild pain, seek care as soon as possible. 

In our office, Dr. Oexeman evaluates your injury to determine whether you’re dealing with a sprain or something less or more serious. To do so, she may order an imaging test, such as an X-ray.

Dr. Oexeman can also recommend an effective care plan, which may involve self-care steps alone or a combination of home and medical treatment. That plan may include:

  • Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE)
  • A walking boot or crutches
  • A bandage or sports tape
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery, for severe cases 

What you don’t want to do is delay rest or treatment for a sprain that’s more severe than you realize. Doing so raises your risk for complications, such as chronic pain, arthritis, and ongoing ankle instability.

To learn more about ankle sprains or find out if an exam is in order, call our office or book an appointment online today.