An ankle sprain is a severe injury from sports, a fall, or simply walking incorrectly and rolling your foot. Sprained ankles vary in severity, with some being mild and others causing significant pain and complications.
Most ankle sprains require some treatment, depending on the severity of the injury. In the case of a mild sprain, you may only need some rest and ice to reduce pain and swelling – but do you also need a cast?
Dr. David Dieboldt and the Beltsville Foot and Ankle Center team are ankle and foot injury experts. Dr. Dieboldt assesses the ankle sprain to determine the best treatment route, which may involve casting, splinting, or other noninvasive therapies.
Signs of a sprained ankle
The ankle joint comprises bones, ligaments, and tendons, all allowing the joint to move correctly. When you sprain an ankle, the ligaments that support the other structures in the joint stretch beyond their standard capacity, sometimes tearing the whole way through.
There are different grades of ankle sprains, ranging from a mild grade one sprain to a severe grade three sprain. Each type of sprain has specific symptoms, which include any of the following:
An ankle sprain makes it hard for you to bear weight on the affected foot and makes it difficult to move.
Immediate care for an ankle sprain involves resting, putting ice on the injury, and wrapping the ankle to control the swelling.
The key to an ankle sprain is getting treatment as soon as you notice a problem. Without the proper treatment, an ankle sprain can lead to chronic instability and other complications.
Is casting necessary?
If you're unsure how severe your ankle sprain is, it's essential to seek treatment from Dr. Dieboldt as soon as possible. The longer the sprain goes without treatment, the more likely you have long-lasting effects.
When you come into the office, Dr. Dieboldt assesses the ankle to determine the grade of the sprain. He may also order imaging studies to look at the structures in the ankle, which helps him assess the damage.
An ankle sprain that's moderate or severe requires expert treatment, but does that always involve casting? Not every ankle sprain requires a cast or boot unless you have a severe injury.
Most mild to moderate sprains only require an elastic wrap around the ankle or a simple brace to immobilize the joint and allow it to heal.
However, if you have a severe sprain, Dr. Dieboldt recommends a cast on the ankle for several reasons. First, walking on a severely sprained ankle is painful, which is where the cast can help. It takes the pressure off the sprain to relieve pain and help you get around while it heals.
Another reason for casting a severe sprain is to keep the ligaments immobilized as they heal. Moving the injured ligaments slows healing time and may cause further damage, where a cast can help.
You usually have to wear the cast for two to six weeks, depending on the severity of your sprain and how well your body heals.
Other treatments for a sprained ankle
Although a cast can significantly help your sprained ankle heal, you may also need other treatments for optimal recovery. Dr. Dieboldt provides several additional treatments for a sprained ankle, which include the following:
- Physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications
Physical therapy, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and casting help the sprain to heal correctly. Dr. Dieboldt recommends a mix of these treatments to ensure proper joint healing.
We reserve surgery for severe sprains that don't get better with conservative treatments. However, it's sometimes necessary to improve pain, repair the torn ligaments, or fix instability problems in the ankle joint.
Call the Beltsville, Maryland office today if you have a sprained ankle or request a consultation with Dr. Dieboldt using our convenient online scheduling tool.