Ankle sprains are common injuries that occur to people of all ages and can range from mild to severe. An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear.
Ligaments are strong tissues that connect bones to other bones. Ligaments in the ankle help to keep the bones in proper position and stabilize the joint. Most sprained ankles occur on the outside of the ankle and can range from tiny tears in the fibers that make up the ligament to complete tears through the tissue.
Without proper treatment a sprain can weaken your ankle, which makes it more likely that you will injure your ankle again. Over time, this can result in damage to the bones and cartilage of the ankle joint such as chronic ankle pain, arthritis and ongoing instability.
Ankle sprains can occur due to your foot twisting unexpectedly during a variety of activities including: sports activities, falling down and walking or exercising on uneven surfaces.
Sprained ankle symptoms
- Immediate ankle pain
- Tenderness to the touch
- Difficulty walking.
Your physician will ask you for a complete medical history and how the injury occurred, have you describe your symptoms and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray or MRI may be necessary to rule out other problems.
Sprained ankle treatment
Your sprained ankle treatment plan is determined by the grade of your sprain. Sprains are graded based on how much damage has occurred to the ligaments. Most sprains can be treated without surgery using the RICE protocol. Rest your ankle, ice your ankle 20 to 30 minutes, three to four times a day, wear compression dressing such as bandages or ace wraps and elevate your ankle above the level of your heart as often as possible within the first 48 hours.
Other nonsurgical treatments for sprains include: medication such as ibuprofen, crutches, immobilization such as a plastic cast or air brace, home exercises and physical therapy.
In extremely rare cases, where the sprain does not respond to nonsurgical treatment, surgery may be necessary. Surgical options include arthroscopy or reconstruction. Your orthopedic physician will determine the best course of treatment based on your specific injury.
With correct treatment, most patients will resume their daily activities after a short period of time. To prevent sprains warm up before exercise, pay attention to foot placement when walking or running, wear shoes made for your activity and slow down or stop activities when you feel pain. If you are on uneven surfaces you should consider protective bracing. It is also important to make sure that you completely rehabilitate your ankle after any injury to prevent re-injury.