ZocdocAnswersHow long to wait to see a doctor for a sprain?

Question

How long to wait to see a doctor for a sprain?

I'm a 25 year old woman, fairly active, moderate exercise and heavy daily walking (I live in the city). I twisted my ankle while running for the bus a little over a week ago. I kept off it, elevated, iced and wrapped it for the first few days and have been walking with an ace bandage. Although the swelling and bruising have decreased, I still have a lot of pain. Should I see an orthopedist or can I wait a few more days to see if it improves?

Answer

You raise a very important question. What should you do about a simple ankle sprain? First of all you did all the right things so far with the ice, elevation and keeping it wrapped. We know that sprained ankles tend to heal on their own, but sometimes the pain associated with them is persistent. Also, having one sprain can predispose you to getting others. It is for these reasons that I always send my patients with newly sprained ankles to physical therapy (PT). PT gives people the best chance for a full recovery. Depending on the severity of your sprain you may also benefit from a walking boot for a short time. Pain control with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is also recommended (if you don't have stomach problems or kidney problems). I think it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment with an orthopedist regardless of how your ankle feels. This is because even if the orthopedist doesn't have any surgical option, you can get a referral to a physical therapy. This usually just requires a physician prescription with most insurances. This way you can be sure to do everything to prevent this from happening again, and prevent any persistent pain.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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