The treatment plan for an ankle injury will vary based on the type of injury and the degree of damage. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about ankle injury treatment?
Sure, Major Spencer. Most ankle sprains are initially treated with a strategy known as P.R.I.C.E., which stands for protect, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. After a sprain, walking may be difficult because of the swelling and pain. It’s not unusual to use crutches if walking without support is too painful. Most ankle sprains simply need a period of protection to heal, rather than more elaborate treatments.
For more severe sprains, the ankle can be immobilized with a cast or a splint. In most cases, the ankle is immobilized with a splint so that the patient can remove the splint several times a day for pain-free motion. Your healthcare provider will instruct you on the proper way to do this. In more severe cases, a short leg cast may be used for several weeks to stabilize the ankle. The healing process usually takes about four to six weeks. It’s important to note that even a complete ligament tear can heal without surgical repair if it’s immobilized and cared for appropriately.
For ankle fractures, a cast or splint will be used to stabilize the ankle, but severe fractures sometimes require surgery to repair the break. Surgery is usually only considered for injuries that don’t respond to other treatments, and for persistent instability after months of rehabilitation and non-surgical treatment.
Regardless of the treatment approach recommended for your condition, it’s likely that your provider will suggest some type of pain medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs, are often used to control the pain and inflammation commonly associated with ankle injuries.