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 In Ask an Expert, Pulse Blog, Urgent Care

Q: When is an ankle sprain something more?

Hiking is one of the Pacific Northwest’s great pleasures. Occasionally, however, a rough trail or simple mistake can lead to injury. If you hurt your ankle while you’re outside but aren’t sure how serious it is, try two simple tests:

  1. Push on the two bones on the sides of your ankle. If that’s not where your pain is, you more than likely have a sprain.
  2. Try to stand and put weight on the ankle. If the ankle can bear weight it’s probably a sprain, but use caution.

If you suspect a fracture or cannot put weight on your ankle, have your party help you down the trail and take you to urgent care for an x-ray. If someone has a foldable splint in their first aid kit and knows how to use it, that can make the return trip more comfortable.

For a sprain, reduce swelling by keeping your boot on as you and your group return to the trailhead. At home, treat the sprain with elevation, compression, ice, and ibuprofen. Ankle sprains usually stay swollen for several days and will heal in a couple weeks. You’ll know you are on the mend when walking causes fewer and fewer aches and twinges.

If the pain is intense even when the ankle is at rest, or if the ankle doesn’t seem to be healing, those are signs that it’s time to see an Urgent Care provider.

—Derek Meyer, MD

Dr. Derek Meyer is an urgent care physician at Vancouver Clinic. He trusts in the therapeutic power of being outdoors and believes that spending more time among the forests, mountains, and rivers—and away from screens—can improve a person’s physical and mental health.

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