What is an ankle sprain?
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 in an awkward way. 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 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?
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.
Ankle 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 of injury.
What are the symptoms of an ankle sprain?
You may have a sprained ankle if you notice the following symptoms in the ankle:
- inability to put weight on the affected ankle
- skin discoloration
- The 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 treated?
Treating a sprained ankle promotes recovery and prevents further discomfort. It’s important not to put weight on the injured area while you’re recovering from an ankle sprain.
Home treatments.You may be able to treat mild sprains at home. Recommended home care treatments include:
- using elastic bandages (such as an ACE bandage) to wrap your ankle, but not too tightly
- wearing a brace to support your ankle
- using crutches, if needed
- elevating your foot with pillows as necessary to reduce swelling
- taking ibuprofen (such as Advil) or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) to manage pain
- getting plenty of rest and not putting weight on your ankle
It’s also 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, apply ice every three to four hours for the next two days.
Surgery for sprained ankles is rare. It may be performed when the damage to the ligaments is severe and there is evidence of instability, or when the injury doesn’t improve with nonsurgical treatment.
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