What is ankle sprain?

Ankle Sprain

Ankle sprain: Overview

An ankle sprain can happen when you twist your ankle. The ligaments that support the ankle can get stretched and torn. Often the ankle is swollen and painful.

Ankle sprains may take from several weeks to several months to heal. Usually, the more pain and swelling you have, the more severe your ankle sprain is and the longer it will take to heal. You can heal faster and regain strength in your ankle with good home treatment.

It is very important to give your ankle time to heal completely, so that you do not easily hurt your ankle again.

Ankle sprain

An ankle sprain is an injury that happens when you stretch or tear the tissues that connect the bones in your ankle. It causes pain and swelling. Treatment is important to help prevent ongoing ankle problems.

What are the symptoms of an ankle sprain?

With most ankle sprains, you feel pain right away. Often the ankle starts to swell and bruise, and it hurts to move it. If a sprain is more severe, you may have a lot of pain. You may not be able to walk or put weight on your foot.

Types of Ankle Sprains

Types of ankle sprains

An inversion injury is the most common cause of an ankle sprain and occurs when the ankle rolls outward and the foot turns inward. It results in stretching and tearing of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.

Less commonly, the ankle rolls inward and the foot outward in an eversion injury, damaging the ligaments at the inside of the ankle.

The high ankle sprain is the least common. It can happen when the foot is forced to rotate toward the outside (away from the other foot), or when the foot is planted so it can't move and the leg is rotated toward the inside.

How is an ankle sprain treated?

At first, you may be able to treat your sprained ankle with the RICE approach. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. You may also need pain medicines and rehab exercises. In more serious cases, surgery may be needed.

How is an ankle sprain diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you how the injury occurred and if you have hurt your ankle before. The doctor will check your foot and ankle, your lower leg, and even your knee to see if you are hurt anywhere else. The doctor may ask you to move your foot up and down and to take a few steps if you can.

In some cases, the doctor may order X-rays to be sure there isn't a broken bone in the ankle or the foot. Children often have X-rays so the doctor can check for any damage to the bone's growth plate.

How can you care for yourself when you have an ankle sprain?

Wear an ankle brace, a high-top shoe or boot, or another form of ankle support to help protect the ligaments as your ankle heals. For more painful and severe sprains, you might need crutches and a protective brace. If your doctor or physical therapist gave you ankle exercises, do them exactly as instructed.

What is an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain is an injury that happens when you stretch or tear the ligaments in your ankle. Most sprains happen when you twist your ankle. Afterward, the ankle usually becomes swollen and painful.

Even though ankle sprains are common, they aren't always minor injuries. Some people with repeated or severe sprains can develop long-term joint pain and weakness. Treating a sprained ankle can help prevent ongoing ankle problems.

How to Wrap a Sprained Ankle

Ankle sprain: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your pain is getting worse.
  • Your swelling is getting worse.
  • Your splint feels too tight or you are unable to loosen it.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You are not getting better after 1 week.

What kind of a rehabilitation program should you follow?

Most people can start rehab right away. Your doctor will recommend specific exercises, depending on your level of pain. A combination of stretching, strength, and balance exercises may help the ankle heal totally and may prevent further injury.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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