Ankle sprains can be tricky for many people, especially when it’s easy to get the word ‘twist’ and ‘sprain’ confused. A sprain is generally much more severe than a twist, and a truly bad one can keep you off your feet for weeks. However, you might reasonably ask: if it’s not broken, do you really need medical attention? The answer is a resounding yes. We’ll look at when it’s time to seek professional help.
The Truth About Ankle Sprains
Most ankle sprains just need time to heal. Your body is trying to mend the ligaments and can usually do so without much help from you. Whether they were merely stretched or torn completely, you may only need ice, compression, and elevation to begin the process of getting back up on your feet.
Sprains can take a while to heal entirely, up to 12 weeks or more. So you shouldn’t necessarily think there’s something wrong if you’re not feeling 100% after a week or two. As long as the sprain is getting better with time and you’re giving it enough space to heal, home treatment may be all that’s needed.
When to Seek Help
You’ll know when a sprain is particularly bad. If there’s a lot of swelling or bruising, you’re unable to bear weight without serious pain, or there’s no improvement after the first few days, it’s time to see a professional.
A severely hurt ankle may not seem broken at first, but X-rays may reveal a small fracture rather than a big sprain. Even if it is a sprain, you may need an ankle boot or crutches to help stabilize yourself if you need to. Since few people can afford to be off their feet entirely for weeks on end, you don’t want to risk breaking the ankle when you undertake necessary tasks.
In more severe cases, you might benefit from physical rehabilitation or surgery. The former can help you strengthen the angle gradually so it can heal properly without compromising your range of motion. Surgery will use metal plates and screws to support the ankle and ensure it can recover from the initial injury.