Non-operative Ankle Sprain and Fracture Treatments
In the case of an ankle sprain, rehabilitation is crucial and starts early. A Rothman foot and ankle surgeon may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
*Immobilization- Depending on the severity of the injury, a short-leg cast, walking boot, or brace will keep the ankle from moving. Crutches may also be needed.
*Early Physical Therapy- A doctor will start a rehabilitation program as soon as possible to promote healing and increase range of motion and strength.
*Medications- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be needed to reduce pain and inflammation. In some cases, prescription pain medications are needed to provide adequate relief.
*Ice- Applying ice to the injured area several times a day until the pain and swelling resolves is advised. Do not put ice directly on the skin.
*Compression Wraps- To prevent further swelling, keep the ankle wrapped in an elastic bandage or stocking.
*Elevation and ice- In most patients, swelling is often seen following an ankle fracture. An important part of proper treatment is to reduce this swelling. By limiting the amount of swelling, the pain from the ankle fracture will be decreased as well as preventing further damage to the surrounding tissue.
*X-rays- A majority of ankle fracture patients are treated in an emergency room or a doctor’s office. The initial procedure is to obtain an X-ray of the damaged ankle to determine what the fracture looks like, how separated the bones are, and to find out the condition of the bone itself. The X-ray of the damaged ankle will help determine the proper course of treatment.
*Splint- Applying a splint to an ankle fracture is most commonly performed in the emergency room. The splint usually remains on the leg for a few days before applying a cast. In the case of continued swelling, a splint allows for more room than a cast. If the damaged ankle is not extremely displaced, the splint may be applied immediately without moving the broken ankle. However, if there is bone separation, a “reduction” should be performed. In this case, the patient will be given anesthesia while the ankle fracture is set or aligned. Resetting the ankle bone will improve the alignment of the broken bones.
*Cast- After a few days, a cast will be placed on the ankle area. However, if the swelling is minimal, it may be applied sooner. The cast is made of either fiberglass or plaster. If it is determined that the cast is needed to hold the broken bone in a specific location, then a plaster cast is usually applied since plaster molds to the skin better. A fiberglass cast is most often used if some healing has taken place or if the fracture is not unstable.
*Crutches – Since most types of ankle fractures require some degree of immobilization and rest following the injury, crutches play an important part in recovery. In many cases, a patient will not be able to place any weight on the ankle for several days, weeks, or even months. Crutches will be provided to aid in mobility while injured.