Ankle Sprains

What is an Ankle Sprain?

An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments in the ankle, most commonly on the outside of the ankle. Ligaments are the bands of tissue that connect one bone to another and bind joints together. In the ankle joint, ligaments provide stability by limiting the side-to-side movement of the joint.

Ankle sprains vary in severity depending on whether the ligament is stretched, partially torn or completely torn, as well as on the number of ligaments that are injured. Ankle strains are different from ankle sprains because they affect muscles, not ligaments.

Causes

Sprains often result from falls, a twist or a blow that forces the ankle joint out of its normal position. It is common for ankle sprains to occur while participating in sports, wearing unsupportive shoes or sandals and walking or running on an uneven surface.

It is more common to see ankle sprains in persons with weak ankles. Also, prior ankle injuries can weaken the ankle and lead to an increased chance of sprains.

Symptoms

The following are common symptoms associated ankle sprains:

  • Stiffness - the joint may be stiff and difficult to move or flex.

  • Difficulty walking - the patient may experience increased difficulty in performing routine activities.

  • Pain - the joint exhibits pain, especially when weight bearing.

  • Swelling - the joint may appear larger than normal.

  • Bruising - dark and tender bruising is common.

Treatments

Treatments for ankle fractures vary greatly depending on the severity of the injury. Several conservative treatment measures are:

  • R.I.C.E. Protocol - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. 
    Rest - Stay off of the injured ankle, further walking can make the injury worse.
    Ice - Cold packs applied to the injury can reduce swelling and inflammation. 20 minutes on followed by at least 40 minutes off is a common recommendation. 
    Compression - Wrapping the injury with a cloth or elastic bandage can help control swelling. 
    Elevation - Elevating the ankle to at least the level of the heart is recommended to reduce swelling. 

  • Immobilization - restricting and protecting the ankle and foot in a cast, splint, or boot is common.

  • Oral Medications - Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may be used to reduce inflammation and pain. In some cases, prescription pain medications may be needed to provide relief.

  • Physical Therapy - Your podiatrist will start you on a rehabilitation program to promote healing and increase the joints range of motion. This usually includes exercises to do at home.

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