An ankle is sprained when the ligaments that work to support the ankle are stretched outside of their range and a tear occurs. Ankle sprains are a very common injury that can range from mild to severe depending on the stress placed on the ligaments. Most sprains can be healed with at-home remedies, like rest or applying ice. However, if your ankle is extremely swollen and painful to walk on you should see your doctor.
The ligaments in the ankles keep the bones in the proper position and work to stabilize the joint. Most sprains occur in the lateral ligaments on the outside of the ankle. Some sprains are tiny tears in the fiber, while others are complete tears through the tissue. If there is a complete tear the ankle can become increasingly unstable over time.
The foot can be twisted in a motion that sprains the ankle in a number of ways during many different activities. Walking or exercising on an uneven surface can lead to instability. Participating in sports that require the player to roll or twist their foot can be dangerous as well. During some activities someone else may step on your foot as you move, which can lead to you twisting or rolling your foot to the side.
A sprained ankle can be incredibly painful. Symptoms include swelling, bruising and tenderness to touch. When there has been a complete tearing of the ligament or dislocation of the ankle joint one may suffer from instability. If there is a severe tear you may hear or feel a pop when the sprain occurs. Sprain symptoms are very similar to those of a broken bone.
Almost all ankle sprains can be aided with nonsurgical treatment. There are typically three phases involved with treating all ankle sprains.
- Phase 1: Resting and reducing swelling by protecting the ankle
- Phase 2: Restoring range of motion and strength
- Phase 3: Performing maintenance exercise and slowly returning to regular activities
These three phases can be moved through within 2 weeks for minor sprains but may take between 6 and 12 weeks for more severe injuries.
Surgical treatment for ankle sprains is uncommon. Surgery is typically for injuries that don’t respond to nonsurgical treatment and for patients who suffer from sever instability after months of rehabilitation. Surgical options include arthroscopy or reconstruction.
For more information on ankle sprains visit the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons..