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A sprained ankle is a very common injury that affects adults and children alike. A sprain occurs when the ligaments that hold the ankle bones and joint in place are twisted, turned or rolled. Athletes often have sprains when they engage in sports, but anybody can miss a step or slip and fall. The injury normally occurs when the ligament is stretched beyond its normal range. In some severe cases, ligaments can tear, causing more pain and a longer healing period.
The amount of force determines the “grade” of the sprain. They are categorized as: Grade 1 – a mild sprain that heals quickly with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) Grade 2 – a moderate sprain that includes some tearing of ligaments. Use RICE and your doctor may recommend immobilization (splint or brace) for a short period of time. Grade 3 – a severe sprain that involves complete tearing of ligaments and causes instability. RICE and immobilization with a splint or brace and physical therapy to restore mobility and range of motion.
Most sprained ankles improve in four to six weeks. In some grade 3 sprains, it may take several months and a reduction of sports during that time.
In some cases, surgery may be required in patients whose sprains have not responded to conservative treatment. WakeMed orthopaedic surgeons can perform arthroscopy – a minimally invasive procedure that looks inside the joint to determine if there is any lose cartilage, bone fragments or ligaments trapped in the joint. If there are torn ligaments that have not healed, these can be stitched, using other ligaments in the area to repair the ankle.
Arthroscopy is an outpatient procedure, with patients normally going home the same day as surgery. It takes a few weeks to a couple of months for a full recovery. Your surgeon may also prescribe physical therapy and range of motion exercises that will help strengthen your ankle.
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