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How to Avoid Sprained Ankle Complications

Dec 12, 2023
A sprained ankle is a devastating injury, especially if you're active – but the complications are much worse. Keep reading to discover how to avoid the difficulties a sprained ankle can cause so you don’t have to miss out on activities.

An ankle sprain is a common injury to athletes and nonathletes alike. It can happen from sliding into home base for the winning run or stepping off the curb wrong and rolling your ankle.

After a sprained ankle, you need to rest and allow the injury to heal, especially if you want to avoid serious complications like chronic ankle instability. The best way to allow your ankle to heal correctly and avoid repeat sprains is to get treatment immediately for a sprained ankle.

At Toe-Tal Foot and Ankle Care, Dr. Daniel Cairns offers a quick evaluation and personalized treatment for foot and ankle injuries and conditions, especially ankle sprains. Dr. Cairns is a foot and ankle specialist providing podiatry care to patients in the Watauga, Texas community.

What's an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain happens when the ligaments on the outer aspect of the joint stretch past their normal range. The ligaments attach muscles to bones and provide stability to prevent these structures from moving too far.

Falls and sports injuries are the most common causes of ankle sprains. The ligaments in the ankle support the joint, which is why ankle sprains are so devastating.

There are three main types of ankle sprains, varying in severity. We use a grading system to diagnose the severity of your sprain, which include:

Grade 1

Grade 1 ankle sprains are the most mild form of the injury and typically heal with home treatment. They happen when the ligaments stretch past their normal range, but there's no instability in the joint.

Grade 2

A grade 2 sprain is more severe than a grade 1 injury. It happens when the ligaments partially tear, there's some instability in the ankle, and it's difficult to put weight on the injury. You might require professional treatment for this type of sprain.

Grade 3

Grade 3 sprains are the most severe form of the injury because the ligaments in the ankle tear completely, causing ankle instability and extreme difficulty walking on the affected joint.

Some grade 3 sprains are severe enough to warrant surgery, especially when the sprain is high in the ankle joint.

Sprained ankle complications

In many cases, a sprained ankle is simply a nuisance, keeping you off your feet for a few days to weeks. However, a simple sprain can become a chronic problem if you're not careful.

Not taking care of your ankle sprain appropriately can cause long-term complications, which are even more difficult for you to manage. Some of the major complications after an ankle sprain include the following conditions:

  • Osteochondral defects
  • Neurovascular injuries
  • Recurrent ankle instability
  • Peroneal tendon injuries
  • Tibiotalar arthritis
  • Pantalar arthritis
  • Chronic ankle pain
  • Chronic disability

Chronic ankle instability is a significant problem that negatively affects the ankle joint. It can lead to repeat ankle sprains, chronic pain, and injury to other ankle and foot structures.

Avoiding complications after a sprain

The best way to avoid complications after an ankle sprain is to allow it to heal completely. Getting the proper treatment and avoiding further injury helps you avoid painful complications.

Mild sprains may only require home treatment like ice, rest, and elevation. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications reduce swelling and pain to allow the injury to heal without complications.

Moderate to severe ankle sprains require more aggressive treatment to heal completely. If you're unsure of what type of sprain you have, it's essential to seek treatment from Dr. Cairns as soon as possible.

Avoiding complications after an ankle sprain requires following your therapy regimen carefully and preventing repeat sprains and injuries.

Dr. Cairns provides physical therapy to help you regain strength, balance, and range of motion in the injured ankle. During therapy sessions, we provide exercises that strengthen the ligaments in the ankle joint to help prevent chronic ankle instability.

Balance training is another essential aspect of therapy after an ankle sprain. Good balance is the best way to prevent repeat sprains and improve any instability in the joint.

As an athlete, endurance exercises and agility training are the last step in treatment after the pain from the injury dissipates. Keeping the ankles strong and stable prevents further damage and complications like arthritis and osteochondral defects.

Call our office in Watauga, Texas, today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Cairns for a sprained ankle, or send the team a message on our website.