Last week we talked about high ankle sprains. Most high ankle sprains happen to athletes or those playing sports like basketball, football, or soccer. But what about the rest of us? If you are like me, you will just sprain your ankle. Not to belittle a sprained ankle because they hurt and are exceedingly inconvenient.
And once again, if you are like me they could be a tad bit embarrassing. You cringe at the question “How did you sprain your ankle?” The answer is usually something that involves grace and coordination like falling off a curb or twisting it on uneven pavement. You know, the sort of thing that you want to make up a story because the truth just makes you look like a klutz.
I have heard the statement that a sprain is worse than a break. Is that true? Well, it depends on the severity of the sprain or break. If it is a simple break, it may be that a sprain is worse but it all depends. I know, kind of a non-answer there. You could have a small break that repairs quickly but a severe sprain that will take a long time to heal. Or you can have a very slight sprain that feels better in a couple of days.
Should you go to the doctor for a sprain? First off, let’s review that you can go to your friendly local podiatrist for a sprained ankle. (Remember entire foot up to the knee for the podiatrist.) Usually with a sprain, your ankle will swell. So, let’s say you go home and put your foot up (elevate) and put ice on it. If in a couple hours the swelling is gone and you can walk on your foot, you might have just a very slight sprain and it will be okay. Notice the “might” in that sentence. There are some variables. The first is that if you have a small break, you can sometimes still walk on it. So, being able to walk is not a litmus test for not having a broken bone. The other is that each of us has our own tolerance for pain. It may be that you have severely sprained your ankle and what would have someone wincing just doesn’t affect you that much. (I might have taken some dramatic license there but you get the drift.)
The basic answer for if you should go to the doctor is “yes” and I will tell you why I think you should. Because you don’t know if you broke a bone nor do you know how severely you have sprained your ankle. This does matter because you need to really get the ankle healed correctly. A sprained ankle, while it seems like a minor blip can be a headache for years to come if not treated properly. If you don’t allow time for the ligaments to heal, you could be looking ligaments that just don’t repair and continue to cause problems. The other thing that can happen is that you can develop tendinitis, impingement syndrome (where scar tissue builds up and impedes movement), or cartilage injury. These are things that you want to prevent. For those reasons, I think you should go to the doctor and have your ankle checked.
On a completely different note – Valentine’s Day is Tuesday. Just a friendly reminder.