how to treat a sprained ankle

Simple Tips To Manage A Sprained Ankle

By far one of the most common reasons to attend the emergency department is for a sprained ankle. Today I wanted to share two tips that will help save you time waiting in the emergency department and get you back on your feet as fast as possible.

Is the ankle broken or is it just a sprain?

After a bad ankle twist the main reason people head to the emergency department is for an xray to if they have a sprained ankle or a broken ankle.

Unfortunately emergency departments are usually very busy, expensive and waiting times can be very long. The following three tests called “The Ottawa Ankle Rules” can help differentiate between a broken or sprained ankle. Applying these rules can help save you time and money.

  1. Were you unable to put weight through your ankle when you hurt it? Are you unable to take more then 2 steps now?
  2. Is there pain when you push on the bottom 2 inches of the inside side of your ankle?
  3. Is there pain when you push on the bottom 2 inches on the outer side of your ankle?

If you have answered yes to any of the questions above there is a chance you may have a broken ankle. It is best to head to the emergency department or your doctor to organise an xray.

If you answered no to all three questions there is a less then 1% chance of a broken bone. Most likely you have a sprained ankle.

To help clarify where to push, the following video shows the exact places.

You’ll notice they also pushed on the inside and outside of the top of the foot. Pain in these two areas may indicate a broken bone in the foot. Again, if you have pain in either of these areas or can not take more then two steps then it’s important to get an xray of your foot. If you can walk and do not have pain in these two areas again it is likely to be a sprain.

What is the first aid for a sprained ankle.

With any sprain or strain the key first aid is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

If you are playing a game it’s time to leave the field. Grab a seat and give your foot and ankle some time to allow healing.

Icing is a great tool for controlling pain and reducing swelling. Grab a plastic bag, a towel and plenty of ice. Fill the bag with ice, lay a towel over your ankle to protect the skin and then place the ice on the towel. The best guide is 20 minutes with the ice on followed by 20 minutes without the ice. Repeat this cycle as frequently as you can. Early icing greatly reduces swelling and pain.

If you can get a firm elastic bandage have a friend wrap your ankle as shown in the video below.

If your toes start to swell, go pale, blue or tingly the bangage is too tight. Loosen it immediately. If removing the bandage doesn’t reverse these changes your swelling may be cutting off the blood flow. It’s important to see a doctor immediately to have this checked.

Finally, elevate your foot. Having your foot higher then the rest of your leg will help reduce swelling of your ankle.

Sprained ankles can take up to a month to heel. Early first aid can help decrease healing time significantly. If your ankle is not settling after a week or two it’s best to see your doctor to be examined and review.

Yours in great health

Dr George


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