An ankle dislocation occurs when the joint shifts out of its normal alignment. The talus bone in the foot separates from the tibia in the leg, which can put enough strain on nearby ligaments to cause tearing. Doctors strongly suggest that a person who experiences intense ankle pain and swelling visit an emergency room as soon as possible so specialists can properly diagnose and treat a dislocated ankle. A doctor can attempt to manually set the joint back into alignment, place a wrap or cast on the ankle, and explain home-care procedures.
Most dislocations are the result of acute ankle injuries from sudden falls or twists. A dislocation is usually easy to recognize, as the joint swells immediately and the foot appears to be misaligned from the rest of the leg. Professional medical care is necessary to properly treat a dislocated ankle. Before medical help is available, an individual should immobilize the joint as best as possible and avoid putting any pressure on the foot.
Upon admittance into the hospital, a patient is usually given oral painkillers or a local anesthetic to lesson symptoms. After inspecting the joint, the doctor applies pressure at specific points to move the ankle back into its correct place. After the setting procedure, x-rays and computerized tomography scans are taken to reveal the extent of damage. In most cases, the doctor will decide to treat the ankle by putting it in a hard cast, splint, or wrap. Complications such as torn ligaments or pinched nerves often require surgery to prevent long-term problems.
An emergency room physician or osteopathic surgeon can help a patient learn how to treat a dislocated ankle at home during the recovery phase. Most patients are fitted with crutches and shown how to use them properly before leaving the hospital. An individual is usually prescribed pain medication and told to get as much rest as possible. If the physician says a splint can be removed, the patient can soak the ankle in a soothing warm bath and apply an ice pack several times a day to reduce swelling.
During the healing phase, a patient is usually instructed to attend regular checkups with his or her doctor to monitor progress. The physician asks about symptoms and takes x-rays to see if bones are mending properly. If a person is careful to treat a dislocated ankle according to his or her doctor's recommendations, there is a good chance that he or she will be able to enjoy physical activity again in as little as four months.