An ankle sprain is an injury to the tough bands of tissue (ligaments) that surround and connect the bones of the leg to the foot. The injury typically happens when you accidentally twist or turn your ankle. This can stretch or tear the ligaments that hold your ankle bones and joints together. All ligaments have a specific range of motion and boundaries that allow them to keep the joints stabilized. When ligaments surrounding the ankle are over stretched, it causes a sprain. Sprained ankles most commonly involve injuries to the ligaments on the outside or lateral side of the ankle.
An ankle sprain often occurs when the foot suddenly twists or rolls, forcing the ankle joint out of its normal position. During most sports, the ankle may twist as a result of sudden or unexpected movement and if that movement is excessive it can cause one or more ligaments around the ankle to stretch or tear. Tendons, cartilage, and blood vessels might also be damaged due to the sprain. Sprains are not limited to any age gender or sports.
- inability to put weight on the affected ankle
- skin discoloration
Imaging tests, such as X-rays, may also be ordered to rule out a fractures.
Treating a sprained ankle is important to promote recovery and to prevent further discomfort. Treatment may differ depending on the severity of the sprain but will often consist of some or all of the following:
- Using elastic bandages or a brace to wrap and/or support your ankle.
- Using crutches, if needed.
- Elevating your foot with pillows while resting or sleeping. This will help reduce swelling.
- Stretching and strengthening when inflammation has reduced
- Getting plenty of rest and not putting weight on your ankle.
- Ice therapy as often as needed in the early stages of the sprain.
- Strapping after injury to assist in anklestability
Surgery is rare, but it may be performed when the damage to the ligaments is severe or when the injury doesn’t improve with nonsurgical treatment of if you are prone to sprain your ankle.
In most cases, an ankle sprain isn’t very serious and will completely heal with proper treatment in a few weeks. The amount of time required for a full recovery will depend on the severity of the sprain. Although pain and swelling will eventually go away, your injured ankle may not be as stable as it once was so it may be necessary to do strengthening exercises and work on your ankle stability. If your foot type is supinated (high arched or you lean more towards the outside of your foot) and have had a number of ankle sprains it may be necessary to wear orthotic insoles that will support the outside of your foot and aim to prevent further sprains.