In the grand scheme of things, a sprained ankle is far from the most serious injury a person can suffer. That being said, a sprained ankle is one of the more common conditions whose symptoms can linger a lot longer than you’d normally expect. Even though your sprained ankle may no longer be painful, you may find that you’re dealing with looseness, instability or a lack of confidence in your ankles ability to handle normal movements weeks or months after pain has subsided.
Why can sprained ankles linger for so long, and what should you do if your sprained ankle just isn’t healing? We answer those questions and explain how we can help you overcome lingering ankle sprains in today’s blog.
Why Do Ankle Sprains Linger?
The main reason why symptoms of an ankle sprain can linger long after the injury should have fully healed is because the injury caused damage to the supportive ligaments on either side of your ankle joint. These ligaments help to provide stability to your ankle joint, and if they are damaged, they will be able to provide less support to the ankle, meaning it will take less stress on the area in order for the ankle to roll or sprain again. This ligament damage is what is driving those sensations of looseness or your lack of confidence in your injured ankle.
Fortunately, these ankle ligaments can be strengthened in the wake of an injury and return to providing support for your ankles. However, many patients don’t follow the right treatment path when these injured ligaments need the attention the most. Many people may take it easy for a day or two, but then they are back to walking or hobbling on their injured ankle because it’s starting to feel a little better. Continuing to put pressure on the ankle while it’s in a weakened state can lead to further damage. That’s not saying that you should just lay in bed for weeks after a sprained ankle, because that won’t help your injured ankle ligaments either, but you do need to be smart about how you approach helping these ligaments become stronger.
Oftentimes the best way to do this is by syncing up with a foot specialist who can take a look at your injury and provide you with some individualized physical therapy exercises. Physical therapy will work to strengthen the ligaments and the supportive soft tissues in the ankle so that they can continue to stabilize the ankle joint. These exercises will also improve your range of motion and overall physical function in the ankle, helping to restore confidence in your ankle joint.
Most patients see great results with a couple of weeks of physical therapy depending on the severity of their ankle sprain, but for those with more significant ligament damage, a minimally invasive procedure may be the right call. During this procedure, the surgeon creates a couple very small incisions on the outside of the ankle in order to access the ankle ligaments. Using specialized tools, the surgeon then artificially reinforces the ligaments so that they can continue to provide stability to the ankle. The tools are then removed and the small incision sites are closed before the patient is sent off to a recovery room.
Rehabilitation after ankle ligament reconstruction will look very similar to non-operative care in that it will involve activity avoidance and physical therapy for a short while, but eventually most patients can return to full activities. In many instances, patients say that their ankle actually feels stronger than it did prior to their injury!
So if you are dealing with an ankle sprain that just won’t heal, resolve to care for the issue by connecting with a foot specialist like Dr. McDonald. We’ll take a closer look at what’s causing your discomfort and get you set up with an appropriate treatment plan. For more information, or for help with a different foot issue, reach out to Dr. McDonald’s office today at (860) 244-8889.