What is an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain is an injury to one or more ligaments that surround and connect the bones of the leg to the foot. The injury happens when a person accidentally twists or turns the ankle past its range of motion and boundaries leading to overstretching or tearing of the ligaments. Ankle sprains are common injuries, especially for people who play sports. A 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.

‚ÄćAnkle sprain symptoms

‚ÄćAnkle sprains can sustain many different types of injuries. Hence, it is important to see a doctor when facing symptoms. Ankle sprain symptoms include conditions in the ankle like:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Inability to put weight in the affected ankle
  • Skin discoloration
  • Stiffness

Who is at risk?

‚ÄćFactors that increase your risk of experiencing a sprained ankle are if you:

  • Play sports
  • Have body balance problems
  • Wear heels or shoes that don't fit well
  • Have a previous ankle injury

Ankle sprain causes

‚ÄćAnything that stretches your ankle more than it's used to can hurt the ligament, serving as an ankle sprain cause. This usually happens when the foot is turned inward or twisted, such as when a person:

  • Plants their foot the wrong way when running, stepping up or down, or doing everyday activities.
  • Steps on an uneven surface, like in a hole
  • Steps on someone else while playing sports.

How is an ankle sprain diagnosed?

Ankle sprain diagnosis may include the following steps:

  • Physical exam: The doctor may begin by doing a physical exam of the ankle to determine which ligaments have been affected. The doctor may move the ankle joints in various ways to check for the range of motion of the ankle.
  • Imaging tests: The doctor may order for ankle sprain test like an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a bone fracture. If the doctor suspects a fracture, a serious injury to the ligaments, or damage to the surface of the ankle joint, he may additionally order for an MRI to do a proper diagnosis.

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‚ÄćHow is an ankle sprain treated?

‚ÄćMild ankle sprains can be treated at home. Such sprained ankle treatment may 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
  • ankle sprain medicine to manage pain like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken
  • getting plenty of rest and not putting weight on your ankle
  • applying ice to the area to reduce swelling

The doctor may ask you to stay off of the 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. When the damage to the ligament is severe and there is evidence of instability, or when the injury doesn't improve with non-surgical treatments, ankle sprain cure may be done by performing a surgery. However, such cases are rare. The type of surgery needed will depend on the severity of the ankle sprain and the level of activity of the individual. Surgical options include:

  • Arthroscopy: the surgeon will look inside the joint to see if there are any loose fragments of bone or cartilage.
  • Reconstruction: The 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.

Rehabilitation is a crucial step in the surgery recovery process. The patient will need to attend regular follow-up appointments with the doctor as well as complete physical therapy exercises to regain motion and strengthen the muscle about the ankle. The rehabilitation process can take weeks or months, depending upon the severity of the sprain and the type of surgery performed.

‚ÄćHow can ankle sprain be prevented?

‚ÄćSteps for ankle sprain prevention or lowering the risk for future sprains include:

  • wearing a brace, if necessary
  • performing strengthening exercises
  • avoiding high heels
  • warming up before exercising
  • wearing sturdy, quality footwear
  • paying attention to surfaces you're walking on
  • slowing or stopping activities when you feel fatigued

When left untreated, an ankle sprain can lead to long-term pain and instability in the ankle.

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July 28, 2022

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