About 23,000 people in the United States sprain their ankles badly enough every day that they need to see a doctor. That fairly astounding figure doesn’t account for all of the other types of ankle injuries you can suffer.
Expert podiatrist Hermoz Ayvazian, DPM, FACFAS, QME, diagnoses and treats ankle injuries at Glendale Foot and Ankle Podiatry Center in Glendale and Burbank, California. If you hurt your ankle, answer the following questions to determine if it’s time to see a podiatrist.
Does your foot look deformed or broken?
If your foot looks strange or is twisted in an unusual direction, or if bone protrudes through skin, you probably broke one or more of the bones in your ankle joint. Call Dr. Ayvazian to set up an emergency visit, or go straight to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Continue to the next question.
Can you put weight on your foot?
If you can comfortably step on your foot or only feel slight discomfort, continue reading the other questions.
If it hurts when you try to step on the foot with the injured ankle, you may have severely sprained, strained, or even fractured your ankle. Be sure to have someone help you to a car or safe spot and then call Dr. Ayvazian right away.
He diagnoses your ankle injury with on-site X-rays and other diagnostic techniques so that you get the treatment you need.
Is your foot badly swollen or bruised?
Severe sprains, strains, and fractures can cause your foot to swell or turn blue. See Dr. Ayvazian or visit an ER immediately.
Go to the next question.
Does your ankle hurt when you touch it?
The ligaments that get sprained most often are on the outside of your ankle. Try touching that area. If it hurts, you may have sprained your ankle. Continue to the next questions.
Continue to the next questions.
Does your ankle buckle when you step on that foot?
If your ankle can’t support the weight of your body, you may have completely torn your ligaments or dislocated your ankle bones. Contact Dr. Ayvazian.
If you can use your ankle, it’s not swollen or bruised, and you don’t feel anything more than mild pain, institute the RICE protocol:
- Rest your ankle
- Ice the injury for 10 minutes, three times a day
- Compress your ankle with a bandage
- Elevate your ankle with a footstool or pillow
If your ankle feels better by the next day, you may not need to visit Dr. Ayvazian. If your ankle doesn’t improve within 72 hours, or if your pain or swelling gets worse, contact your podiatrist immediately.
Why injured ankles need treatment
Although ankle injuries are common, they can still be serious. Even if you only suffered a mild sprain this time, if you don’t receive proper treatment and physical therapy to build up strength in the ankle, you’re at increased risk for a future sprain.
Ankle injuries can also damage surrounding soft tissues and nerves. The injury may have disrupted the integrity of the cartilage that protects your ankle bones, which could lead to arthritis at a later date.
By getting your ankle evaluated as soon as possible after an injury, you get a definitive answer about whether your injury is mild or serious, and also get the right treatment to help you heal quickly and well. Taking care of your ankle now protects it in the future.