The treatment plan for an ankle injury will vary based on the degree of damage to the area. Most ankle sprains are initially treated with a strategy known as R.I.C.E., which stands for 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 is too painful without the added support. Most ankle sprains 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 some cases a short leg cast or a brace may be used for several weeks to stabilize your 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.
Fractures to the bones in the ankle can also occur. A cast or splint will be used to stabilize a fracture, although 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.
Arthroscopic surgery is commonly used to treat ankle injuries that require surgical repair. During arthroscopic surgery, the provider makes a small incision and inserts a tiny camera into the ankle. This allows the provider to look inside the joint to see if there are any loose fragments of bone or cartilage, or if any part of the ligament is caught in the joint.
During the surgical reconstruction of a severe ankle sprain, your provider will repair the torn ligament with sutures, or use other ligaments or tendons found in the foot and around the ankle to repair the damaged ligaments. When reconstructive surgery is required to treat a fracture, the specific procedure will be determined by the type and severity of the fracture.
Regardless of the treatment approach recommended for your condition, it is likely that your provider will suggest some type of pain medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, called NSAIDs, are often used to control the pain and inflammation commonly associated with ankle injuries.