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A summary of the management of ankle sprains should include the types, or grades, of sprain as well as the commonly-accepted treatment options for each grade. There are three grades of ankle sprains, beginning with the least traumatic, or mild (Grade 1), and continuing on to a moderate sprain (Grade 2), and concluding with a severe sprain (Grade 3). According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a Grade 1 sprain is characterized by “minimal tenderness and swelling,” and is generally treated with rest followed by gradual application of weight or pressure. Ice or a cold compress should be applied to prevent or reduce swelling. While rest is important for the initial stage of management, however, it is important to exercise, gently, the ankle to keep it from stiffening-up. Maintaining mobility is essential in treating a Grade 1 sprain. A Grade 2 sprain, a moderate sprain, is characterized by “moderate tenderness and swelling,” with a “decreased range of motion” and “possible instability.” Management of a moderate sprain involves protracted rest, including, again, according to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “immobilization with an air splint” and physical therapy to restore the “range-of-motion.” Finally, a Grade 3, or severe sprain is characterized by “significant swelling and tenderness,” and is managed through immobilization and physical therapy to restore the full range-of-motion. A particularly severe sprain may require surgical intervention to repair or ruptured torn ligaments.
Multiple sources consulted for the above paragraph are confirm the same characteristics of different grades of ankle sprain, and are all consistent with regard to management of each type of sprain. Links to some of these sources are provided below.
The first step in any ankle sprain management is to ice it and elevate it. You want to reduce swelling and not cause any more damage. Depending on what grade of sprain it is (1,2,or 3), you will use RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) for different time periods. Once the swelling goes down you need to slowly re-gain range of motion through unloaded joint movements. During this stage you can start isometric exercises to gain strength. Once range of motion has improved you can increase the intensity of the exercises and add in balance and proprioception work. Progressing through these stages at the right time will help you recover from an ankle sprain in the shortest amount of time possible.
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