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Understanding Ankle Sprains: Normal Healing vs. When to Seek Help


Expert Insights

Ankle sprains are a frequent injury, often occurring during sports activities or even everyday tasks like walking. These injuries are particularly common in sports such as basketball, football, and rug.

What Happens During an Ankle Sprain?

Ankle sprains typically occur when the ankle twists inward, causing damage to the ligaments— the tough fibres that connect bones and stabilise joints. The most common type of ankle sprain involves the tearing of ligaments on the outer side of the ankle, leading to internal bleeding and visible bruising. Fortunately, the body is designed to heal these injuries naturally.

The Healing Process Explained

Immediately after an ankle sprain, the body initiates healing by sending blood to the injured area, resulting in swelling. Due to the distance from the ankle to the heart, some swelling may persist even after the injury seems to have healed. This swelling often subsides overnight but may reoccur with daily activities due to normal blood flow.

Treating Ankle Sprains with the RICE Method

The RICE method—Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation—is an effective treatment for ankle sprains. This approach helps reduce swelling, alleviate pain, and support the healing process. Research suggests that resuming activity as soon as pain allows can lead to a quicker recovery.

Recognizing When to Seek Medical Attention

If the pain is severe and you cannot bear weight on the ankle, immediate medical attention is necessary. Recovery time varies based on the extent of the ligament injury and can range from days to months. If improvement stalls or you cannot return to normal activities, consulting an orthopaedic specialist is advisable.

Preventing Ankle Sprains

Preventing ankle sprains is always preferable to treating them. Stretching before sports can help prevent injuries to the ankle and other joints. Additionally, using ankle braces or taping can help prevent recurrent sprains, especially if you have a history of such injuries.

Professional Advice

Experts suggest understanding the normal healing process and recognizing when to seek medical attention can significantly improve outcomes for ankle sprains. Persistent swelling, difficulty bearing weight, or lack of improvement are indicators that professional evaluation may be necessary. Preventative measures like proper warm-ups and protective gear can also reduce the risk of these injuries.

By following these guidelines, you can better manage and prevent ankle sprains, ensuring you remain active and healthy. Stay informed, take preventative measures, and seek professional advice when needed to maintain optimal joint health.

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