A: Ankle injuries are very common in the United States, with more than 25,000 occurring each day. Although most “sprains” are not serious, up to 40 percent may have residual symptoms which often leave the injured patient with questions regarding initial treatment and when to seek medical attention.
The most important aspect of initial therapy for a sprain is the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compress and elevate). Rest: The ankle should be adequately braced, usually with a stirrup splint (often referred to as an air cast). Crutches may also be needed if there is significant pain with walking. Ice: The ankle should be iced for 20 minutes with at least 20 minutes away from ice to avoid frost nip. Compress: Milking the swelling towards the heart (up the lower leg) followed by an ace wrap will help minimize stiffness and pain. Elevate: Keep the injured ankle raised as much as possible to prevent excessive swelling. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medication may also be utilized in the initial weeks.
There is often the question when to seek medical attention. If the injured is unable to walk briefly following the injury, if the there is pain over boney structures or if the pain is very significant, then medical attention should be sought with the possible need for X-rays.
Information provided by Dr. Joseph Yankey, Urgent Injury Clinic at DMOS, 6001 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines, 515-327-5160.