Frequently Asked Questions

Our son is in training to be a professional dancer. Last weekend, he sprained his right ankle badly. With a series of performances coming up, he has to get back on his feet quickly. What do you recommend?

The specific treatment of ankle sprains depends on the location and type of injury. Most ankle sprains affect the lateral ankle (outside of the leg). But a medial (inside) ankle sprain can occur.

In the case of a mild to moderate sprain, rest for a couple of days is advised. Slow, gentle, full motion of the foot and ankle is important. Movement exercises should be performed to keep the ankle from stiffening up and losing motion. In these cases, we say: Motion is lotion.

Studies show that the standard practice of applying ice and taking antiinflammatories should be modified. The inflammatory process has a special purpose to bring about healing. But too much inflammation can cause adhesions and scar tissue. By using limited amounts of ice, the healing inflammation can still occur, but in moderation.

If the sprain is severe enough, immobilization may be needed. An aircast is the most popular type of splint. It provides the stability of a plaster cast but can be removed to wash and move it. Limited weight bearing may be necessary. In such cases, crutches can be used for a few days up to a week or so.

If there is any nerve damage, it's important to avoid taping or immobilizing the ankle. Pressure on the injured nerve can cause even more problems. Any symptoms of numbness and/or tingling may be a sign of nerve involvement. The doctor can conduct several tests to check on the condition of the nerve and advise your son accordingly.

Severe injuries with torn or ruptured ligaments and/or nerve damage may take longer to heal. When the ankle is recovered enough to resume dance activities, an ankle brace may be helpful for a short time. When full weight can be placed on the joint without painful symptoms or swelling later, then the patient is ready for full activity.

Vijay Jotwani, MD, et al. Cutaneous Sural Nerve Injury After Lateral Ankle Sprain: A Case Report. In The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine. March 2008. vol. 25. No. 3. Pp. 126-128.

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