Many of us have experienced it – when teetering in sky high heels and turning an ankle inwards, when kicking the soccer ball at a crooked angle or a mis-stepping down the stairs late at night, or perhaps when chasing a runaway skateboard and slipping on wet leaves – all amounting to a twisted and swollen ankle, otherwise known as a sprain.
Ankle sprains are unsurprisingly common; causing 10% of all emergency department visits and up to 20% of all sporting injuries. Nevertheless, despite being a common injury, there are still conflicting ideas of what should be done when a person presents with an ankle sprain.
According to Dr William Edwards from the Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Centre of Victoria, there are very few scenarios where the first response should be to “walk it off” or “play on”. More often than not, the best thing to do for any sprain is to rest the ankle whilst elevating and apply ice to the area, then assessing for a lasting injury.
In many cases, swelling and pain will subside with appropriate rest, without any surgery or further analysis needed. However if the pain does not subside, or if the ankle looks quite clearly to be out of position, a visit to the emergency department is necessary. According to Dr Edwards, a simple rule to find out if an ankle sprain is serious is to assess whether a person can walk at least six paces within a half hour. If a person cannot, then a visit to an emergency department is necessary.
Most sprains will resolve in time with appropriate rest or some physiotherapy to retrain the ligaments, however in 10-20% of cases surgery will be required to reset and stabilise the area.
Serious or complicated ankle injuries can take up to three months to heal, and it is these cases which require further investigation and treatment from an orthopaedic surgeon. Whilst for many it may be tempting to “soldier on”, Dr Edwards suggests that such an approach can cause recurrent injuries which, decades later, may manifest as ankle arthritis or even more serious and potentially debilitating issues.
The surgery that is often required to treat these more complicated cases involved arthroscopy (minimally invasive joint surgery) and ligament reconstruction, followed by physiotherapy and appropriate exercise.
Rehabilitation for sprains is of particular importance, and often involves time spent in hospital, a couple of weeks of rest and elevation, followed by a month or so on crutches and ongoing physiotherapy to stabilise the area.
And whilst many benefits of ankle surgery can be felt and seen within several months, for many it may take up to a year for a full recovery.
To find an a qualified orthopaedic surgeon for a fast-tracked appointment in your area visit www.specialistnow.com.au