What Happens if I Ignore My Ankle Sprain?

Apr 06, 2023
What Happens if I Ignore My Ankle Sprain?
Ankle sprains are common, but that doesn't mean ignoring them or delaying care is OK. Here's what can happen if you don't get prompt medical attention for your ankle symptoms.

Ankle sprains are among the most common musculoskeletal injuries among Americans, especially athletes and people who lead physically active lives. About 2 million ankle sprains happen every year.

Perhaps because they're so common, many people think it's OK to ignore an ankle sprain or treat it with some at-home TLC. But not getting medical care for a sprain can have some very negative consequences; in fact, as many as 70% of people with ankle sprains wind up with long-lasting symptoms or chronic ankle instability.

With locations in Midtown Manhattan and Staten Island, New York, Forward Foot & Ankle offers state-of-the-art care for ankle sprains and other ankle problems and tips to help people avoid long-term problems. In this post, our team explains why prompt medical treatment is necessary.

How a simple sprain can lead to long-term problems

Your ankle is "held together" by strong, somewhat-flexible bands called ligaments. When you sprain your ankle, you stretch one or more ligaments beyond their normal capacity. As a result, more serious sprains may involve partial ligament tears, while very severe sprains may tear the ligament through ( a complete tear).

While ligaments have a little flexibility, they're not designed to be very flexible. When you stretch a ligament, it doesn't always return to its pre-strain shape and strength. Some sprains result in residual ligament weakness, making it more prone to future sprains.

This is a condition called chronic ankle instability, and not only does it increase your risk of future strains, but it also makes you more prone to falls and other injuries. If you have chronic ankle instability, it's very common to "roll" your ankle, a problem that can lead to ankle fractures. Chronic ankle instability can happen after one sprain, but it often occurs when you injure the same ankle more than once. 

Medical treatment is critical

While home treatment for ankle sprains may seem like a convenient option, without professional medical care, your ankle may not be getting the treatment it needs to recover and regain its strength and stability. 

When you come to our office with an ankle sprain, your treatment begins with a thorough exam to evaluate the sprain, its severity, and its impact on your mobility. Our team maps out a complete treatment plan based on the severity of your sprain, your history of ankle problems, your lifestyle, and other factors in decreasing the risk of future problems. 

In addition to focusing on relieving pain and restoring function now, we'll help you learn simple ways to avoid future sprains, a contributing cause of chronic instability. These include taking steps like:

  • Choosing the right shoes for your activities and lifestyle
  • Picking the best terrain for running or hiking
  • Incorporating stretching exercises to enhance ligament flexibility
  • Suggesting strengthening exercises to provide natural ankle support
  • Recommending balance exercise to prevent falls and "ankle rolling"
  • Foot care strategies to optimize your gait

If you're at risk for chronic ankle instability, we may recommend physical therapy to build strength and flexibility in your ankles and your legs.

On the other hand, delaying care means your sprain may never fully heal, leaving your ankle joint and ligaments prone to future injuries. Prompt medical attention with follow-up visits ensures your ankle recovery stays on track and optimized for your healthy future.

Don’t ignore your ankle symptoms

If you have an ankle sprain or any painful or unusual ankle symptoms, prompt treatment is the key to a good recovery. To evaluate your ankle, call 718-317-5215 or book an appointment online with the Forward Foot & Ankle team today.