Health Team

Questioning How to Treat Common Injuries Not Uncommon

Posted January 24, 2008 3:32 p.m. EST
Updated January 24, 2008 10:04 p.m. EST

— With common injuries, such as ankle and knee sprains, patients often want to know when they should see a doctor, how to treat themselves and how long to stay off their feet.

Colleen Black Semelka fractured her right leg and crushed the bones in her left ankle in a car crash in November. She progressed from a wheelchair to a walker.

“I became quite competent with the walker, and they took it away from me (and) said I need to progress to crutches,” Semelka said.

Dr. Selene G. Parekh, orthopaedic surgeon at the University of North Carolina, says crutches need adjusting for each patient.

“You want to make sure that the crutch goes into the arm pit with about two- to four-finger-breadth-width between the bottom of your arm pit and the crutch itself,” he said.

The hand grip should be about at the wrist when the arm is relaxed.

Most ankle injuries aren't as severe as Semelka’s, but certain symptoms may require medical attention.

Swelling, with severe black and blue marks, means there's bleeding in the tissues. Deep-seated pain may indicate a bone fracture. If you're unable to resume normal activities after a few days, you should see a doctor. Otherwise, there are things you can do to treat yourself, such as bandaging.

“We use ACE wraps to help with edema control or swelling control,” Parekh said.

Wrap from beneath the toes to the center of the foot, figure 8 around the ankle, and not too tight. Semelka said she hopes she can progress further to use a "roll about" with a hand-brake.

“I think it would be great if I were in a position to be able to work, because the crutches are quite limiting,” she said.

With a sprain, WRAL Health Team Physician Dr. Allen Mask suggested using ice the first two or three days, then convert to heat.

Some injuries require physical therapy, which should speed up recovery time. If you are referred to an orthopaedist, make sure to take your X-rays. The doctor will want to view the films, Mask said.