A jog on rocky terrain, a pivot on the basketball court, or a careless step off a curb can make your ankle buckle, overstretching or tearing the ligaments that keep it stable. Suddenly, you have a sprained ankle — one of the most common injuries among athletes and nonathletes alike.
Our board-certified physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat sprained ankles and other musculoskeletal injuries at LA Orthopaedic Specialists in Los Angeles, California. All sprains involve the ligaments that connect the bones in your joints, but not all sprains are the same. They can range from micro tears in the tissue to complete severance, and we categorize them according to severity.
Here, we explain the symptoms and treatments of each sprain type.
How we evaluate your sprained ankle
The first clue that you’ve sprained your ankle is that you experienced trauma, such as a fall, trip, or sports incident involving your ankle.
Second, you experience pain, bruising, swelling, and/or instability in your ankle.
Third, you schedule an appointment with our team at LA Orthopaedics for a professional diagnosis. We can usually determine whether you’ve sprained your ankle after observing it, checking its range of motion, and talking to you about how the injury occurred.
To confirm our diagnosis, we run imaging tests, such as digital X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, and MRIs that evaluate your ankle’s structure. However, not all these tests are necessary in every case.
Once we’ve gathered all the pertinent information, we make a diagnosis and assign your sprain a grade.
What type of ankle sprain do you have?
We grade your sprained ankle based on the extent of the damage. Here are the three grades and how we treat them.
Grade 1 ankle sprain
A grade 1 ankle sprain is the mildest of the three types. It’s characterized by:
- Micro ligament tears and mild stretching
- Mild tenderness but little-to-no pain
- Slight bruising and swelling
- Ankle remains stable
Most grade 1 ankle sprains can be treated at home with self-care, although we recommend you come to see us for an expert diagnosis before determining the type of ankle sprain and the proper treatment.
The RICE approach — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — works well for grade 1 ankle sprains. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, or pain-relieving acetaminophen, can ease any discomfort and reduce swelling.
Grade 2 ankle sprain
A grade 2 ankle sprain is more severe than a grade 1 and usually includes:
- A partially torn ligament
- Moderate tenderness and pain
- Moderate bruising and swelling
- Slight instability
The RICE method and NSAIDs are still helpful for a grade 2 sprain, but you may have to stay in this phase of treatment a little longer. We may recommend a walking boot or air cast to give you extra support during the healing process.
Grade 3 ankle sprain
A grade 3 ankle sprain is the most severe type involving:
- A completely torn ligament
- Severe pain
- Significant bruising and swelling
- Inability to bear weight
- Significant instability
We may put you in a short leg cast or brace for a week or two to keep your grade 3 ankle sprain stable during the initial healing phase, and you’ll likely need crutches.
Grade 3 ankle sprains, especially those that don’t respond well to conservative treatments, may require surgical repair.
All types of ankle sprains require rehabilitation after brief immobilization to restore range of motion and function. Physical therapy, electric stimulation, laser therapy, and ultrasound help strengthen your muscles and hone your sense of balance so you can prevent re-injury.
We also offer platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy to accelerate healing. PRP is a type of regenerative medicine that taps into the natural healing power in your blood. We take a small sample from your arm, spin it in a centrifuge to isolate the platelets and plasma from the layers of red and white blood cells, then inject the concentrated serum into your sprained ankle.
The platelets release growth factors that significantly reduce inflammation and stimulate the renewal of damaged tissues.
If you have a sprained ankle, give yourself the advantage of a full recovery under our expert supervision. Contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment at LA Orthopaedic Specialists.