You may not realize how much abuse your ankle takes each day. From standing and walking to playing sports or completing chores at home, your ankle plays a large role in your everyday life. Unfortunately, this daily use can also wreak havoc on the ligaments of your ankle, resulting in a painful sprain and possible loss of mobility. Considering an estimated 25,000 people sprain their ankle each day, understanding this common injury is smart. While shocking to learn, there are different grades of sprains that will require treatments to restore your ankle back to health. Using this guide, you will understand the signs and treatment options for each grade of ankle sprain.
A grade 1 sprain occurs when the ligaments of your ankle are stretched, but not torn. In most cases, a grade 1 ankle sprain will cause the following symptoms:
- Moderate pain
- Light swelling
- Moderate stiffness
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty walking, running, and jumping
A grade 1 ankle sprain will not require an involved form of treatment. However, your doctor will recommend R.I.C.E. therapy to heal the sprain and ease your pain. To follow the R.I.C.E. formula, use the following:
- Rest – Reduce the amount of time you spend walking each day. Avoid placing weight on the injured ankle, as well. Do not participate in any sports or strenuous activities.
- Ice – Place an ice pack on your sprained ankle immediately after the injury. Hold the ice in place for a few minutes at a time to reduce swelling and inflammation. The ice will also numb the pain.
- Compress – Your doctor may wrap your ankle in a tight bandage or splint. The compression bandages or splints will reduce inflammation and swelling while preventing your ankle from moving.
- Elevate – Prop the leg with your ankle sprain up on a pillow. Elevating the ankle will improve the circulation of blood, relieving the swelling and inflammation of your ankle ligaments.
Swelling and pain may subside after a few days, but you should continue R.I.C.E. therapy until your doctor sees noticeable improvement in your ankle's ligaments.
A grade 2 sprain causes partial tearing of the ankle ligaments. This grade can cause a great deal of pain, swelling, and loss of mobility. You may also notice bruising around the injured ankle. While injuring the ankle, you may actually hear a popping or tearing sound.
Since a grade 2 sprain causes actual tears in the ankle ligaments, you may need to spend more time utilizing R.I.C.E therapy to recover. Your doctor will need to wrap the injured ankle in an elastic bandage or air splint, which should be worn through the entire recovery time to immobilize the ankle. On average, an estimated 6 to 8 weeks will be necessary to completely recover from a grade 2 ankle sprain.
A grade 3 ankle sprain causes a complete tear of the ankle ligaments. This more severe type of sprain will cause the following symptoms:
- Intense pain
- Tenderness around ankle
- Serious swelling
- Inability to walk or place any pressure on the ankle
Certain cases of torn ligaments can heal on their own, but you will need to utilize R.I.C.E. therapy for a longer period of time. This long period of rest, ice, compression, and elevation can be tedious and time-consuming, but an essential part of restoring your ankle back to a healthy state.
A completely torn ankle ligament may require surgery to reconstruct it if R.I.C.E. therapy is not sufficient for healing. Arthroscopic surgery involves using a small camera to look inside the ankle. Small instruments are used to remove fragments from bone and cartilage. Torn ligaments are sutured up. Or, a tissue graft will be used to repair a severely damaged ankle ligament.
An ankle sprain may be a common injury, but it can cause serious pain and immobility. With this guide, you will understand the different degrees of sprains and learn how to repair your injured ankle. For more information, talk to a foot and ankle specialist.