What Is an Ankle Sprain?
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 in an awkward way. This can
stretch or tear the ligaments that hold your ankle bones and joints together.
ligaments have a specific range of motion and boundaries that allow them to
keep the joints stabilized. When ligaments surrounding the ankle are pushed past
these boundaries, it causes a sprain. Sprained ankles most commonly involve
injuries to the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.
You should call
your doctor right away if you sprain your ankle. Your doctor can determine the
severity of the injury and recommend a proper course of treatment. It can take
several weeks or months for a sprained ankle to heal completely.
What Causes an Ankle
sprain often occurs when the foot suddenly twists or rolls, forcing the ankle
joint out of its normal position. During physical activity, the ankle may twist
inward as a result of sudden or unexpected movement. This causes one or more
ligaments around the ankle to stretch or tear. Some swelling or bruising can occur
as a result of these tears. You may also feel pain or discomfort when you place
weight on the affected area. Tendons, cartilage, and blood vessels might also
be damaged due to the sprain.
sprains can happen to anyone at any age. Participating in sports, walking on
uneven surfaces, or even wearing inappropriate footwear can all cause this type
What Are the Symptoms of an
You may have
a sprained ankle if you notice the following symptoms in the ankle:
to put weight on the affected ankle
can sustain many different types of injuries. It’s important to see your doctor
when you’re experiencing problems with your ankle. Your doctor can determine
whether the injury is a sprain or something more severe.
How Is an Ankle Sprain
will perform a physical exam to determine which ligaments have been torn.
During the exam, your doctor may move your ankle joint in various ways to check
your range of motion.
tests, such as X-rays, may also be ordered to rule out a bone fracture. An MRI may
be done if your doctor suspects bone chipping, a serious injury to the
ligaments, or damage to the surface of the ankle joint. The MRI test uses a
strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the body,
allowing your doctor to make a proper diagnosis.
of the ankle joint may be injured if the ligaments have been completely torn.
If this is the case, then your ankle may be unstable even after the injury
How Is an Ankle Sprain
sprained ankle is important to promote recovery and to prevent further
discomfort. Your doctor may provide you with some tips and items that you can
use to care for the sprain while you recover. It’s important not to put weight
on the injured area while you’re recovering from an ankle sprain.
You may be
able to treat mild sprains at home. Recommended home care treatments include:
elastic bandages (such as an ACE bandage) to wrap your ankle.
a brace to support your ankle.
crutches, if needed.
your foot with pillows while resting or sleeping. This will help reduce
ibuprofen (such as Advil) or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) to manage swelling
plenty of rest and not putting weight on your ankle.
helpful to apply ice to the injured area as soon as you can to reduce swelling.
On the first day, you should apply ice every 20 to 30 minutes, three to four
times per day. Afterward, it should be applied every three to four hours for
the next two days.
may tell you to stay off of your injured ankle until the pain subsides. For
mild sprains, this may take a week to 10 days, while more severe sprains may
take up to several weeks to heal.
rare, but it may be performed when the damage to the ligaments is severe or
when the injury doesn’t improve with nonsurgical treatment. Surgical options
- Arthroscopy: During an arthroscopy, a
surgeon looks inside the joint to see if there are any loose fragments of bone
- Reconstruction: For reconstruction surgery, a
surgeon will repair the torn ligament with stitches. They may also use other
ligaments or tendons around the foot or ankle to repair the damaged ligaments.
The type of
surgery needed will depend on the severity of your ankle sprain and your
activity level. After surgery, rehabilitation is a very important part of the
recovery process. You’ll need to attend regular follow-up appointments with
your doctor and complete physical therapy exercises to strengthen the ankle.
Depending on the extent of your ankle sprain and the type of surgery done,
rehabilitation can take weeks or months.
What Is the Long-Term
Outlook for Someone with an Ankle Sprain?
cases, an ankle sprain isn’t very serious and will completely heal with proper
treatment. The amount of time required for a full recovery will depend on the
severity of the sprain. Most ankle sprains take a few weeks to fully heal. A
more severe sprain may take many months.
pain and swelling will eventually go away, your injured ankle may not be as
stable as your unaffected ankle. Your doctor may suggest certain exercises to
help strengthen the ankle. However, you shouldn’t proceed with exercises until
your doctor has told you to do so.
How Can I Prevent an Ankle
lower your risk for future sprains by:
the affected ankle in an elastic bandage
a brace, if necessary
up before exercising
sturdy, quality footwear
attention to surfaces you’re walking on
or stopping activities when you feel fatigued
doctor right away if you think you’ve sprained your ankle again. When left
untreated, an ankle sprain can lead to long-term pain and instability in the